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.
Bunraku is a traditional puppet theater comprising three key elements: puppet performers, a chanter and a shamisen player. During the performance, puppets are manipulated by skilled performers while a chanter recites to the sound of a shamisen guitar. Their performance is enchanting and inexplicably erotic and spectators are captivated by the elegance of the puppets movement. Kiho Bunraku is a Bunraku that has been passed down for generations in the southern part of Ehime prefecture.
In the early Edo period, there were three puppet theater groups considered the best in the land. One of them, dating back more than four hundred years was Awaji Puppet Theater troupe lead by Kamimura Heitayuu. Their performance has been passed down in this region along with the puppets and complete sets of costumes during Meiji period, which have been carefully preserved to this day. Among them, thirty nine of the doll’s heads, which were created by Tenngusa who was considered a master artisan, were especially highly regarded and have been designated as tangible folklore cultural assets by the prefecture. The puppet performers are also designated as intangible cultural assets by the Kihoku Town.
In order to preserve Bunraku and nurture its successors, Kihoku Bunraku Preservation and Kihoku Bunraku Kouenkai were formed and they have been actively involved in performing at schools and senior centers. They also perform with other nearby Bunraku groups every few years.
Kite flying has become one of the plays of the New Year’s holidays since the late Edo period, when a kite with Kabuki actor’s image or famous wartime warrior’s image painted on it was considered to have a magical power or bring good luck. The appeal of kite flying lies in how to control a kite, taking the length and tension of the string and the wind direction into consideration. Besides the competition for the height of flying, there are also several kinds of kite fighting games called tako-gassen or kenka-dako. In the kite fighting, you will contrive the ways to keep flying your kite longer than others by crashing it to or cutting off the string of the competing kites. Many kite flying contests in design and display are held all over the country.