Usually, a three-lion dance is performed by three men (they dance wearing headgears looking like monster heads while beating drums tied onto their waists) and four sasara players (hanagasa dancers) (they may be men, women, or children wearing headgears with imitation flowers and they dance while playing sasara instruments). In addition to these members, there are those who dance and shout for the lion dancers to be encouraged and some harlequins or clowns wearing funny masks. Some clowns dance with somewhat obscene objects in their hands such as one resembling a big penis. Also, there are bamboo fife players and singers. However, such an organization described above is a basic organization and there may be variations. The three-lion dances in every district vary in dance, music (fifes, drums, etc.), costumes, and other elements. I believe that knowing such differences adds to the pleasure of watching these lion dances.
This time, I will write about the lion dances inherited at the following shrines and a temple in three districts:
Aoki Shrine in the Ohtaba district in Okutama Town, Tokyo
Jofukuin Temple in the Kami-nariki district in Ome City, Tokyo
Suwa Shrine in the Shimo-naguri district in Han-noh City, Saitama Prefecture
At Aoki Shrine, their three lion dances are performed in late August and the Ohtaba district, where Aoki Shrine is located, is in the eastern part of Okutama Town, sharing a border with the east, adjacent city of Ome. Actually, there is a mountain path that runs from this place to the Kami-nariki district via Nasaka Pass (this route is also called Tokyo Metropolitan Route 202, Kami-nariki Kawai Line).
In the Kami-nariki district, there is a temple named Jofukuin. To the south west of this temple is Mt. Takamizu. Near the summit of this mountain stands the Fudo-do, a temple building dedicated to Fudo Myopo (Acala Vidyârâja). Every year, on the Sunday of April that is closest to April 8, which is believed to be the birthday of Buddha, three-lion dances are performed in front of the building. So, these dances are probably more widely known as three-lion dances of Mt. Takamizu than as those with the modifier of Jofukuin Temple or Kami-nariki. The ridge lying in the north of the Kami-nariki district borders Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, and people in the Kami-nariki and Shimo-naguri districts in olden days intercommunicated with each other via Kosawa Pass on the ridge (modern people can drive cars to come and go through the Kosawa Tunnel that runs under the pass).
At Suwa Shrine in the Shimo-naguri district, three-lion dances are performed on Saturday and Sunday close to August 25. They perform their dances as rehearsal on Saturday and then real thing on Sunday.
These 3 three-lion dances are said to be in the same bloodline. The dances of Aoki Shrine were first started about 350 years ago. Then, the dances were brought over Nasaka Pass into the Kami-nariki district and handed to Jofukuin Temple in the place. Later, they were in turn brought over Kosawa Pass into Shimo-naguri district. So, they are like brothers and have many similarities. However, the dances of each district have acquired their own individuality in the course of time. I think it is interesting to compare the dances of these three districts.
Last year, I went to Aoki Shrine in the Ohtaba district to see their dances, the eldest among those of the three districts. At that time, a dance of Mt. Takamizu and dance of Suwa Shrine from Shimo-naguri were also performed as special performances. Since the dances of the same program "San-byoshi" from the three different districts were performed, the audience could watch these dances and compare them. Unfortunately, I was late for these programs and could not watch them.
Nonetheless, I visited these thee places at separate opportunities to watch dances, and shot video of these dances. So, I can now watch and compare these dances.
Among many programs of three-lion dances, "Mejishi-gakushi," or hiding of the female lion, is one of my favorites. This usually lasts for about two hours and is one of the longest programs. In the story of this program, the two male lions scramble for the female lion. First the younger male successfully takes the female to his place and gets her alone. Wondering where the female is, the older male looks for her to find what is happening. Then, he tempts her to join him, and he successfully takes her to his place and gets her alone. Then, in turn, the younger lion finds what is happening and tempts her. In this way, they scramble for the female.
Especially, I like scenes where a male tempts the female and I consider these scenes to be important high points. The female, who first hesitates to go with a new male, is gradually moved by the new male, and finally leave the old male to go with the new one. I think these scenes well express a woman's mind that is not easily settled between two males.
I have picked up such scenes from those different three programs and have got together them in one movie. So, please watch and enjoy the three-lion dances of Aoki Shrine in Otaba, those of Mt. Takamizu, and those of Suwa Shrine in Shimo-naguri.