Wednesday, October 23, 2013
11:00am – 3:00pm
First, in order to get the timing and pauses into our bodies, we learned the rhythm with “Kuchi Shouga,” a method that is unusual in modern times.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
We learned the steps, drumming, and dance that go with the timing and pauses we remembered through “Kuchi Shouga.” They let us try the real costumes on and practice.
Sanriku’s Okirai is a town blessed with nature and has the world-distinguished Sanriku fishery, located on the undulating Ria Coastline. Okirai also has the approximately 7-thousand-year old “Sanriku Great Cedar,” which is a designated cultural treasure of Ofunato City. Also, the Natsumushi mountains are inhabited by Honshu Deer, and its mountaintop, with a view from Ofunato City all the way to Kinka mountain, is a famous spot for Rhodendron.
Urahama Nenbutsu Kenbai (Sword Dance)
The Nenbutsu Kenbai (Sword Dance), passed down in the Urahama region of Okira, in Sanriku, Ofunato City on the southern part of the coast in Iwate prefecture. Its birthplace is unknown, but it is estimated to have started in the middle or late Edo period. Locally, it is called “Kenbeh,” not the standard “Kenbai.” It is said that Nenbutsu Kenbai is “a combination of the magical characteristics of Henmai and Pure Land Buddhist beliefs.” Urahama is barred in by mountains and ocean due to the geography of the Ria Coast, and it is one corner of a region that was once called the solitary land island- is here that the dance has been passed down as a pure folk art of the living masses until today.
Characteristics: Urahama Kenbai is composed of drums, flutes, and dancers. The dancers are basically made up of 8 people, all of whom wear a mask. The focus of the dance, the Sasara, has the red costume from the program piece “Sanbaso.” Four of the five dancers from the main Kenbai wear a wig called “Kezai,” and the “Otokoyama” (Male Mountain) and “Onnayama” (Female Mountain) dancers wear a traditional hat called “Torikabuto.”
Urahama Kanazu Style Shishi Odori (Deer Dance)
Shishi Odori (Deer Dance) is largely divided into the types that does not have a drum (Dance Acts) and that does have a drum (Drum Dances). The Kanazu style is a folk performing art that belongs to the style of Drum Dances. The costume has a prestige that cannot be seen in any other folk performing arts. They hang long Hassai grasses richly over the Deer headpiece that has deer horns attached to it sideways, cover their upper bodies with a front hemp covering and their lower bodies with an Okuchi Hakama (traditional pleated pant-skirt). They have a Keman bow tied with a thick red ribbon and a patterned “Nagashi” hanging over the back of their heads, and they wear a long Sasara attached to their backs. The main characteristic is that they wear a drum diagonally on their waists, and with two thin drumsticks they beat the drums, sing and dance
Holding memorial Services for ancestral spirits, abdicating of evil spirits, and praying for abundant crops, these dances have been done on shrines, temples, and household gardens, and has also been passed down as a religious service for dedication at festivals regulary-held at local shrines. The Kanazu style has a high character in the midst of its simple purity, and it is truly the pride of Tohoku and can be called one of Japan’s representative folk performing arts. The performance’s program includes “Sankou no Kata” (a ritual dance), “Reiniwa” (Garden of Gratitude), “Kirikaeshi” (Sending back the God), “Shimakiri” (Fog of the Island), “MesuShishiTori” (Hunting the Female Lion), “AnzanshiOdori” (Scarecrow Dance), “TeppoOdori” (Wooden Pole Dance), and the “Tosa” dance. Not only have the dance skills been passed down, but they have also been inheriting and strictly protecting a series of rituals, which are beginning to learn the dances, receiving a role, inheriting the headpiece, watching the performance in a large group, and finally, the ritual of the four gates of inheritance and the rectifying of the ritual monument.
A message from the Urahama Folk Performing Arts Preservation Society
Damages Suffered from the Great East Japan Earthquake
The building, which we used as the headquarters for the both the “Kanazu style Urahama Shishi Odori” and the “Urahama Nenbutsu Kenbai” hometown folk performing arts that we are engaging in, was completely destroyed, and the costumes and props we had been preserving were washed away in the tsunami. We only lost small items and 3 drums from the Shishi Odori, but we ended up losing everything having to do with Kenbai. Both are precious inheritances from our ancestors- Urahama Nenbutsu Kenbai was brought back after ten years of inactivity in July, 1972, and the Kanazu style Urahama Shishi Odori was revitalized after a 70-year slumber in 1990. Buried in shock from the large earthquake, we bitterly thought at one point that we would have no choice but to suspend our activities, but we returned to our starting point that “it is a dance for the peace of lost souls,” and after 100 days of memorial service amidst the rubble for those lost in the great earthquake, we became active again on June 18th.
Making and Repairing Costumes and Props
June 11th, 3 months after the great earthquake, we were able to get three sanjaku belts, 2 drums, and financial support from the relief efforts for groups that support local performing arts organizations suffering damages from the earthquake and Arauma Folk Performing Arts Group. Also, with the support of grants from each publicly-funded organization, such as the Nippon Foundation and the Eastern Japan Railway Cultural Foundation, we are planning on finishing repairing and newly making the costumes and props that were lost in the earthquake. However, we have yet to maintain a central building for our activities of practicing and preserving the props, and we have been making a used mobile storage unit our place for preserving props. Also, since we only have outdoor open spaces as our practice space, sometimes we have to cancel practice in the winter seasons or inclement weather, and we cannot truly start our activities again.