Shinmeisha Shrine in the Naka area in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which was relocated to the present place in 1600.
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at this shrine on the evening of November 2 and on the morning of November 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that this is one of the Ningyo-Joruri performances that were introduced to this area during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The doll performance is dedicated to give thanks to nature and to pray for a rich harvest, family safety, national peace and prevention of diseases. The dedicated play “Okina” is a drama in Kabuki style, which is originally a repertoire of the Noh play. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is about 1 meter tall and operated by two local young men. Taking charge of operating different parts of the doll, the two doll handlers skillfully operate the doll and make it dance and perform the drama, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The movements of the dolls are so elaborate that you will feel as if a real man is acting as a doll.
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at the annual autumn festival of Ushikoshi Shrine in Ukusu in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, on November 2 and 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). Sanbaso is a genre of the Kabuki and Ningyo-Joruri dancing, which originated in the Noh play. The doll performance is dedicated to pray for a rich harvest and national peace and stability.
There are several theories about the origin of Ningyo-Joruri performance in this area. One theory states that it was introduced by a nobleman from Kyoto, who was exiled to the Izu province. Another theory states that it was introduced in the early Edo period (1603-1868) by Okubo Nagayasu, who came to this province as Magistrate of Izu Gold Mine. In any case, it is clear from the shrine record that the Sanbaso dance was already performed at this shrine by the local young men during the Tenmei era (1781-1788).
Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is operated by three doll handlers. Taking charge of operating different parts of the doll, they handle the doll in a well-balanced manner to the music of Japanese drums, flutes and clappers. The unity created by the dolls and their handlers leads the spectators to the fantastic world.
Sawa Shrine in Nishina in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which enshrines the deity of a bumper catch and navigation safety. According to the shrine record, the shrine was endowed with the landownership of shipbuilding village by Emperor Sujin (B.C. 97-30).
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at the annual autumn festival of the shrine held on November 2 and 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that Ningyo-Joruri performance was introduced to this area during the Keicho era (1596-1614) by Okubo Nagayasu, who was a Sarugaku performer and came to this province as Magistrate of Izu Gold Mine. Ningyo-Joruri was first performed at this shrine in celebration of the large scale refurbishment of the shrine building in 1825. Since then the tradition has been handed down by the local young people.
The dedicated plays are “Hinoiri-Sanba (the Setting-sun Sanba)” on the first night, and “Hinode-Sanba (the Rising-sun Sanba)” on the second night. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is operated by three doll handlers. The troupe, composed of 22 people including drum and flute players and Joruri chanters, performs the Sanbaso dance in accordance with the traditional styles and leads the spectators to the fantastic world.
Sushikiri (sushi-cutting) Festival is held at Shimoniikawa Shrine in Sazukawa-cho, Moriyama City, Shiga Pref. on May 5 every year. This shrine originates in a small hall built in 715. The deities enshrined here are Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto and Niikawa Kotatehime no Mikoto. There is a legend that Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto, the eldest son of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.), crossed Lake Biwa on a raft and landed on this village on his way to conquer the East. The ritual of Sushikiri is said to originate in the salted crucian carp that the villagers offered to the prince. In the Sushikiri ceremony, two young men slice up funazushi (crucian carp sushi) and dedicate them to the god in accordance with ancient ritual. After the ceremony, the dances called “Kanko no Mai” and “Naginata Odori” to the Japanese traditional ohayashi music called “Sanyare” is performed. The ritual of Sushikiri is a nationally selected Intangible Cultural Property.
Popularly called “Chiryu Daimyojin,” Chiryu Shrine in Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture, was one of the three distinctive shrines on the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). The shrine possesses a lot of precious cultural properties including the Tahoto pagoda, which is thought to have been built in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and masks for Maigaku (court music), Noh plays and Shishi-mai (lion dance).
Among the renowned festivals held at this shrine, Akiba (Autumn Leaf) Festival in September every year serves as the annual festival of Akiba Shrine, a sub-shrine located in the precinct of Chiryu Shrine. According to the shrine festival record written in 1758, the kagura dance and ningyo-joruri (doll plays) were dedicated as the autumn festival in conformity to the Grand Festival of the main shrine in spring,
The main feature of Akiba Festival today is the display of tube fireworks, which started to be dedicated in 1907. During the day, young men of six towns of the city shoulder the box called “Tama-bako (ball case),” in which the stone representing a firework ball is placed, and valiantly parade through the city, singing “Nagamochi-uta.” When they return to the shrine in the evening, they stand in circle and display dynamic tube fireworks.
Tanabu Festival held on August 18 to 20 in Mutsu City in Aomori Prefecture is the largest summer festival in the Shimokita region. It serves as the annual festival of Tanabu Shrine, designated as the shrine housing the head guardian god of the region in the Edo period (1603-1868). The festival is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural peroperty.
The origin of the festival is unknown; however, as Tanabu Festival is referred to in the travel diary written in 1793 by Masumi Sugae, a natural historian in the Edo period, it is believed that the festival began in much earlier eras.
The five floats lacquered in black and gorgeously decorated in the style of Gion Festival in Kyoto are brought from five sub-towns of Tanabe Town for the parade through the city. The floats have two stories; the deity of each sub-town is enshrined on the upper story, while the Ohayashi musicians called “Noriko (men who ride on)” are playing elegant Gion-bayashi on the lower story.
The highlight of the festival is “Goshawakare (the farewell parting of the five floats),” which takes place at 11 P.M. on the night of August 20. The five floats leave the shrine for the main crossroad of the town, where float-pullers and spectators are entertained with sake in a barrel and promise to hold the festival again in the following year; then they return to their own neighborhood.
Do-gyoretsu Drum Parade serves as the annual festival of Matsue Shrine held on the 3rd Sunday in October every year in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. “Do” is a special drum made of paulownia tube and cow skin. It is a huge drum with a diameter of about 2 meters.
The origin of a Do drum dates back to 1724, when Princess Iwahime of the Fushimi-no-miya family, a branch of the Imperial Family in Japan, married into the 5th lord of the Matsue domain, Matsudaira Nobuzumi. The townspeople made a huge drum and beat it loud to celebrate their marriage.
On the day of the festival, two or three Do drums are placed on dozens of large floats, which are pulled by children in happi jackets and parade through the city. The parade is joined by about 2,000 citizens, accompanied by flutes and copper clappers called “Changara”. On the floats are young drum players beating the drums powerfully with fantastic quill techniques. The spectators can enjoy not only viewing the parade but also listening to the sound of this energetic festival echoing through the city.
Imao-no-sagicho, also called Dondo, is a festival for burning old amulets, 'kadomatsu' for the new year, and 'shime' ropes in order to pacify the god of fire and bring about good health and harvest.
The festival takes place on 11 February each year at Akiba Shrine and is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Prefecture. Several bamboo trunks with their branches and leaves intact, are tied together to make a large ring 2m in diameter, 6m high and weighing 2 tons. This becomes the sacred bamboo foundation for the burning.
On the day of the festival, young men with make-up on their faces and wearing 'juban' undershirts and 'tabi' socks, walk across the city to light the bamboo pyre. They then carry the burning pyre all over the city while dancing and chanting.
The burnt leftover bamboo pieces are worshiped as amulets that protect against fire and lightning, while ricecakes cooked with the leftover fire are said to be effective against any kind of illness.
The Imao-no-sagicho is a festival that allows visitors to take a peek at 400 years of tradition in Imao.