Amagoi Kasa-odori is a rain dance ritual performed at Noda Shrine in Noda Town, Kariya City, Aichi Prefecture, in late August every year. The dance is dedicated in front of the altar after the holy sake and candles are offered. The rain dance has been handed down for nearly 300 years since 1712. Although it was discontinued in the early Show period (1926-1989), it was revived by the local preservation group and has been performed to this day. It is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the city.
When the singers start to sing the rain-making song and the shrine priest performs the purification ritual, the dancers in yukata with the bottoms tucked up into the obi belts and the sleeves tucked up with red tasuki sashes and wearing the wide-brimmed straw hats appear in the dancing field. They stand face-to-face on both sides of the drums with short drumsticks called “Tsuroro” in their hands and start to dance in a refreshing manner. During the dance, the dancers look up at the sky to the blowing of the conch horns.
Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a traditional performing art, which has been handed down in Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref. It is performed during the Kyu Bon period in August (Bon of the lunar calendar). The dance is designated as a city’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. It is said that the dance originated in Yuten Shonin’s idea during the Edo period. Yuten Shonin (1637-1718), who was born in Iwaki Yotsukura and became a great Buddhist priest, made efforts to find an easy way to teach Buddhist invocation to unbelieving people of this area and guided them into reciting Namu Amida Butsu to the tune of a song. Young men in yukata (informal summer kimonos) with tucked-up sleeves dance and parade through the city chanting a Buddhist invocation to the unique rhythms of Japanese bells and drums. They visit each of the families who go through Niibon (the first Bon following the death of a family member) and pray for the dead person’s soul and console the bereaved. There are about 100 groups of such young men in the city and participate in the activities rooted in the local community. The dance movements are basically the same, but somewhat different in details. Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a reminder of the summer in Iwaki.
"Tanzen” is a thickly-padded over-kimono worn in winter for lounging. It is also called “Dotera” in the Kanto region. Tanzen or Dotera is usually worn over yukata. It is also fastened with an obi belt just like kimono. The striped patterns are popularly employed for Tanzen, which are called Tanzen stripes.
It is said that Tanzen became popular in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when men in the town in Edo competed in attracting attention of a yuna (a female bathing attendant at a public bathhouse) named Katsuyama. She worked at a public bathhouse Tanzen-buro, helping the customers by scrubbing their backs or combing their hair during the day. However, the customers could have sexualintercourse with yuna at night, a lot of men visited to see her. As she liked unique ways of dressing, the men began to wear very wide obi belts to pretend to be a personof tastes.
Tanzen later became popular among servants working for samurai, and was gradually worn by the commoners.
Ebi Jushichiya (the 17th night) Festival has been handed down in Kofu-cho, Hino-gun, Tottori Prefecture. It dates back to about 500 years ago, when the Hachizuka clan, the castellan of Ebi Castle, opened the castle to the public and held a Bon festival, where invited townspeople enjoyed dancing and sumo wrestling regardless of rank and seniority.
The townspeople continued this Bon dance festival even after the Hachizuka clan was defeated by the Hojo clan. They got together in the grass field near the castle on August 17th on the lunar calendar and danced for the souls of the castellan and their ancestors.
Today, the festival is held on August 17th every year. The festival starts with dancing, drum beating and sumo wrestling by the groups of local residents unions, co-workers and children. At around 8:30 at night, dancers wearing yukata and sedge hats of the same design take a lead in Kodaiji Dance and spectators join them. The highlight is the moment when the great bonfire in the shape of kanji “Ju-shichi-ya (十七夜)” is lit on Mt. Kuren on the other side of the Hino River. Ebi Jushichiya Festival is a pompous and gallant festival with a long history.
Ohara-Matsuri Festival held in Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Pref. is a citizens’ festival. It was first held in commemoration of 60-year anniversary of municipalization in 1949, when the momentum for post-war restoration was enhanced among the citizens. The name Ohara-Matsuri comes from “Ohara-bushi,” which is the representative folk ballad of Kagoshima Pref. About 20,000 dancers with Yukata and Hanagasa (flower hat) on are dancing around the city to the rhythms of “Ohara-bushi” and “Hanya-bushi.” The roadsides are filled with spectators from all over the country. This is the largest festival in Southern Kyushu Region today. During the first several years, together with Ohara-bushi dancing, the parade of fancily dressed-up automobiles was the highlight event, but since 1961, the dancing parade has become the main event. Ohara-Matsuri Festival can be enjoyed by both participants and spectators. The whole town is full of feverish excitement during this wonderful civil festival.
Morioka Sansa Dance Festival in Morioka City of Iwate Prefecture is a Bon Odori, a Buddhist dance festival held every year to honor the deceased spirits of ancestors.
It takes place each year at the beginning of August and is one of the biggest festivals with a spectacular dance comprising of more than 30,000 performers.
“Sansa” is said to come from the word to cheer, but there is no clear record of the origin of the dance and a few different legendary stories have been passed down. One of them is that the dance festival was started to honor Mitsuishi for slaying a demon. Another is that the dance was introduced by Nichiren Shounin, the founder of the Nichiren religious sect.
The dance festival evolved into a dance style called Nanbu Teodori or Southern Hands Dance during Edo Period, in which performers increasingly used their hands to keep a rhythm. The style was similar to the one seen today and the dance spread to other areas of the region.
This dancing parade consists of many dancers wearing yukata kimonos with brightly colored waist sashes and drummers who are said to number more than any other parade in Japan. The festival is a popular event to bring cheer and celebrate the summer in Morioka City.
The Hyotanyama Inari Shrine enshrines the 3 Japanese gods of harvest. The shrine is also known as the Tsujiura headquarters.
Hyotanyama Inari Shrine is located in Hyotanyama, Higashi-Osaka district of Osaka. The Shinto shrine is built on the west slope of the Hyotanyama tomb. It is believed that the tomb was built in the beginning of the sixth century. The name Hyotanyama originates from the fact that the shape of the small hill looked like a bottle gourd. According to the shrine records, in 1584, Toyotomi Hideyoshi transferred Fukube Inari (the harvest god) from Fushimi Momoyama Castle and enshrined it on this ground because he was constructing Osaka Castle.
Hyotanyama Inari Shrine is also famously known as the headquarters of Tsujiura because it foretells the god's will. It is said that the foretelling is still done in the vicinity of the shrine gate. The grand festival is held in summer, and it is crowded with visitors wearing yukata summer clothes.
Yukata is the summer kimono made of lightweight cotton. The word “yukata” is the abbreviation for “yu (bath)-katabira (under clothing).” In the Heian period (794-1192), the noblemen wore yukatabira to prevent heat when they took a steam bath. Later in the Edo period (1603-1868), when a steam bath was replaced by the bathtub as is used today, Yukata, which absorbs sweat and has permeability to air, came to be worn as a summer kimono, a dressing gown, or night attire. At the present time, it is the most popular night wear at a Japanese ryokan (inn). The fabric designs vary from the traditional indigo plant patterns on a white background to more colorful designs. Polyester or blended fabric is also used. Since Yukata is easy to wear, it is the most popular kimono wear. The scene with people walking in Yukata is one of the charming sights of summer in Japan.