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.
Kagura is a traditional theatrical dance in the Shinto religion. Kashiwagino Jindai Kagura is one of these dances that have been passed down to the Kashiwagino region of Hinoharamura, Nishitama-gun,Tokyo. Jindai Kagura is performed once every two years at Chinjyu Nangou Shrine, on the occasion of the fall festival, to pray for rich harvests and the safety and well-being of the family.
Prior to the performance, dancers undertake a purification ceremony in which they clean themselves in the Minamiaki River, chanting “rokkonshoujyou”. Rokkonshoujyou, literally translated, means “six roots purification”. In the context of this Kagura it means to purify the six senses and the consciousness that humans possess. The word, rokkonshoujyou, is said to be at the root of the word “dokkoisho”, which Japanese people often utter to cheer themselves.
The performance starts with the Demon Dance, performed by children. It is then followed by 12 other performances, including Yusaguri in which people try to change the heart of a bad person by putting him into hot water and Daijya Taiji in which an old man asks people to capture a giant snake that has swallowed his daughter. All of the dances are based on local folk tales and they entertain the audience until midnight.
The performers range from elementary school students to adults all of whom decorate themselves with vibrant costumes and Kagura masks. The Jindai Kagura tradition is still alive and well today and it is dearly loved by Japanese people.
Jindai Kagura has been designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by Tokyo.
Masaoka Festival is held in April every year Ichihasama Masaka in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture, in memory of Lady Masaoka, a wife of Shirakawa Yoshizane and the wet nurse who raised Date Tsunamura, the 4th lord of the Sendai domain. The memorial ceremony is held by the present members of the Shirakawa family at Ryuunji Temple, where the Yatsushika Odori (8 Deer Dance) is dedicated in front of Masaoka’s grave.
After the memorial ceremony, about 500 citizens join the parade and go through the town. Some of them act as warriors in armors to reenact the days when Lady Masaoka lived. The festival floats, the drum and fife band and the dancers of Yatsushika Odori also join the parade.
Lady Masaoka is famous as the model of a Kabuki play “Meiboku Sendaihagi.” This is based on the troubles in the Date family of the Sendai domain in the Edo period. In the story, the wet nurse Masaoka protects her young lord from a party of villains by sacrificing her own son.
Toyoma Shinryoku Takigi-Noh is the Noh play put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires. It is performed in the middle of June every year at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum, in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture.
When the bonfires placed on the white sand ground around the stage are lit all at once at 5:00 in the evening, the Noh stage appears out of the darkness. For the following three hours, the elegant Noh plays on the stage together with the sound and smell of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, too, it was given protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords including Date Masamune.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class. After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople and being inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh.
Toyoma-Noh has been handed down by Toyoma Yokyokukai (Toyoma Noh Chant Society) since 1908. Although they are amateur performers, they keep the tradition with extremely high level of performance that can be compared with professional Noh players. Toyoma-Noh was prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property and it still enjoys wide popularity among people inside and outside the prefecture.
Kagura is a traditional theatrical dance in the Shinto religion and Musashi Mitake Shrine Daidai Kagura is one of these dances that have been passed down since the Edo period. Musashi Mitake Shrine sits on the top of Mount Mitake in Okutame, Tokyo.
The dance is said to have originally come from the Masaki Inari Shrine in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, and it is based on the Izumo-style of Kagura dance.
The shrine still serves many different kinds of “kou” each of which represents a group of followers. The people in a kou believe that the highest form of praying to their god is to dedicate a dance and Daidai Kagura is performed on special occasions.
There are two different types of performing style in Kagura dance. In one type, masks are worn and in the other they are not. Masked Kagura has more of an entertainment aspect with clear story lines, many of which are based on popular mythologies from folktales such as Kojiki. The non-masked dance has a more religious or ritualistic aspect and it is performed to purge the place of evil spirits. These two dance performances used to have 12 titles each, however only 17 in total have survived and are still performed.
Because Daidai Kagura is dedicated to god, the dancers kneel down and bow at the start and at the end of their dance. Also, all of these dances are performed facing the image of god.
Daidai Kagura preserves the essence of true Kagura which encourages people to enjoy themselves while they honor god.
The Kumi kagura dance has been handed down at Ise Mikoto Shrine in the Kumi area on Oki-Dogo Island. It was derived from the Ochi kagura dance that has been performed on the islands of Oki. The Kumi kagura dance is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property. It is dedicated at an annual festival held at Ise Mikoto Shrine on July 25th in the years ending with even numbers and 26th in the years with odd numbers.
The kagura dances in the Oki Islands are usually performed by the people called Shake (hereditary kagura dance performers). However, the Kumi kagura was handed down to the local worshippers from the Wada family, the successor of this kagura in the Aburai area, in 1889, since when it has been performed by local people.
The dances are performed all through the night from 9:00 P.M. till the dawn of the following day. The repertoire includes “Miko-mai (the dance by shrine maidens),” which is typical to this kagura, gallant “Sarutahiko-no-mai,” and humorous “Taizuri (Sea Beam Fishing).” The combination of dynamic dancing and colorful costumes gives a deep impression on the spectators.
Amidst the dances, a small banquet ritual called “Nusa-no-sakazuki” is held, where the dancers and the directors of the shrine parishioners’ board are served with sake wine.
Nishimura Kagura, or also called Mugi (Wheat) Kagura, has been passed down in the Nishimura area on Oki-Dogo Island, Shimane Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the town of Okinoshima.
Nishimura Kagura used to be performed on June 4 on the old calendar, when each family of the village brought 1 go (about 150g) of wheat to the shrine and invited 3 Shake families (hereditary kagura dance performing families) from 3 areas on the island and asked them to dedicate the kagura dances.
However, Nishimura Kagura was handed down to the people in the Nishimura area from the Murakami Shake family, the successor of this kagura in the Togo area, in 1950. Since then it has been performed by the people in Nishimura in August, when many family members return home for the bon rituals.
Today, the Nishimura Kagura Preservation Society has been organized by volunteers and shrine priests to pass down a variety of distinctive plays to the future generations.