Sep 8, 2011

Sanbiki-shishimai--three-lion dance

Sanbiki-shishimai, or three lion dance is a form of local performing art that is usually performed to pray for bountiful harvests, security and prosperity of the nation, protection from disasters and epidemics, etc. in precincts of shrines and temples as offering to Shinto gods or Buddha. This performing art has been handed down from generation to generation for several hundred years.

In Japan, especially in the Kanto area, there are many districts, where three lion dances are performed. Tokyo also has such districts and many of them are in the western part in mountainous places such as Okutama Town, Ome City, Akiruno City, Hinohara Village, and so on.

A typical three-lion dance band consists of three persons wearing headgears resembling lion heads (actually they do not look like lions, but people in olden days, who had never seen the lion, used their imagination to make these headgears), four sasara players (a sasara is a musical instrument made of bamboo and is used to make rubbing sound), several to over ten bamboo fife players, and clowns, and other members. However this constitution is a typical example and a slight or significant variation may be seen according to the band (e.g., six sasara players instead of four).

Now, let's see how these dances are performed:

You can see there are various costumes, various types of music, and various movements.

August is probably the high season of three-lion dances in Tokyo. Actually, I visited three places to see theses dances last month (August). And, August is the hottest month of the year, and they perform these dances with heavy headgears. This must be very, very hard work! Anyway, August is over now, the summer heat has been softened, and a new sake season is just around the corner. Now, the cooler it becomes, the more delicious sake becomes, and I suddenly want to have warmed sake.

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