Apr 17, 2010

Shishimai Lion Dances on Mountain Top

The shishimai lion dances performed Saturday, March 10, were outstanding. However, it is a pity that I had to leave the place without seeing the final dance "Tachigakari" due to the time of the bus I needed to catch. "Tachigakari" is a dance in which they dance with wielding real Japanese swords. Also, the dances on this day were performed as rehearsal. So, I badly wanted to see the real thing on the nest day, Sunday.

In the afternoon next day, I was driving a car. Of course, I was heading for Mt. Takamizu, for Fudodo of Jofukuin Temple.

Fudodo is located at the point just under the summit of Mt. Takamizu (759 m above the sea level) and can be ascended by car through a twisty mountain road. The mountain road starts at a point just several ten meters before the entrance of the main building of Jofukuin, where the rehearsal was held on Saturday. The mountain road was so narrow that two opposed cars can just manage to pass each other, and it was partly unpaved. But, anyway, the car brought me to the end of the road just in 15 minutes or so. There was a guy working on parking control at about the end of the road, and he told me to park the car on the roadside since the parking lot of the temple was full.

I pulled over the car on the steep slope. While I was searching for good stones to chock the car wheels, I heard high-pitched fifes playing and drums beating, which were as if they were urging me to come to the venue quickly. I hastily looked for stones, found two good-sized, chocked two wheels, and then hurried up the mountain path to Fudodo.

I often climb Mt Takamizu for hiking, and I am familiar with the vicinity of the summit and temple. Usually, I walked for about one hour and half to descend the summit. But, this day I drove from the Nariki district for the first time. Climbing the mountain by car was of course easier than on foot, but anyway being in mountains was refreshing because of clean air.

I climbed up steep stairs with labored breath, went through the temple gate, and came into the yard of Fudodo, where "Mejishigakushi" (hiding of the female lion) was being performed. "Tachigakari" is the next performance and it seemed that I came to the place in good timing. The audience benches were not so crowded as I expected. I felt a little bit hesitant to sit in the front in the audience area for fear that I would block the view of people behind. However, they had decided to sit there leaving front seats vacant after all, so why should I hesitate? I sat on the seat in the front row. The weather at the time was fair and the sunlight was felt rather hot. The climate conditions sweat me, who was not working but just sitting still. I took off the jacket, and then vest. I still felt hot probably because I had rushed to this place on the steep mountain path.

In the front yard of Fudodo, the dance of "Mejishigakushi," which I saw also on the previous day, was being performed. I already had a rough understanding about which part of the dance is most interesting. Actually, I like the scene where Tayu (the great male lion) or Kodayu (the young male lion) tries to make advances to Mejishi (the lioness) to take her away. The lady lion at first assumes an attitude of stubborn refusal, but her mind gradually begins to waver between the two males. I think the movements of the performers in this scene well describe the minds of lovers. Please, see the video below.

In the venue, there are photographers, enthusiastic spectators, chatterers having sweet sake lees drink or cotton candy, and other different types of people. I liked such an easygoing atmosphere as a whole, which is a good point of folklore performing arts. An elderly guy in a good mood grabbing a 1800-ml bottle of local Tokyo sake was hanging around, eagerly offering a drink to people there. Yes, I love it very much that there is local sake wherever a Japanese festival takes place. If I had not been driving, I would have asked him for some.

Well, the time has come finally, and the last long-awaited "Tachigakari" performance started. However, very very unfortunately, it started to rain, and the performance was discontinued. They changed the place of the performance to the hall inside the temple building, a small room. Many parts of the dance were omitted. Since wielding the swords indoors was dangerous, the real swords were replaced with wooden swords. Then, the performance was resumed. But, the real swords and wooden ones were completely different things. You know, you may lose your finger from just light touch on a real sword while you can even grab a wooden sword. So, I thought I need come to see "Tachigakari" next year again.

Today's Sake
Shirokoji-shiyou Junmai Kasen (Tamura Syuzoujou)
Sake from long-established Tamura Syuzoujou located in Fussa City, Tokyo
As the sake name suggests, they use shirokoji (white koji) mold to prepare koji rice, which will be used as a part of the whole amount of koji for making this sake.
In koji preparation process of sake, yellow koji mold is usually used, and white koji is usually used for shochu. Actually, this sake smells somehow like shochu as to the first aroma note. This sake is dry with high acidity and exhibits a too flinty impression at room temperature. However, once this is warmed, roundness in taste emerges.


Melinda said...

Wow, that's unusual. I don't think I've ever tried sake made with white koji. Are there many brands that use it?

いちべー said...

I don't know any brand using white koji mold other than this.
By the way, did you tried the red Niigata sake using Beni koji mold (rouge koji mold)?