New site launched as video library of the Japanese traditional arts
In April, a new “Regional Cultural Assets” (Chiiki Bunka Shisan) site was launched as an archive of some 100 videos recording traditional arts from around Japan, such as local festivals, Shinto music and dance, shishimai (“lion dance”) and other types of dances. On this site the arts promotion organization Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities makes an archive of videos that have been created for the purpose of encouraging the preservation and continuation of these traditions. The videos range in length from just over ten minutes to as long as two hours and all have been edited with a five-minute digest type introduction. Also, the site is designed to enable search by locality and detailed category classifications, and there is a function that enable viewing of the portable shrines and the floats used in festivals. Plans call for additions to be made to the archive beginning next year. Note that the films and site are in Japanese only.
Library content samples
Esashi no Shishi Odori (The Stag Dance of Esashi) (Iwate Pref.)
The dancers wear large-horned deer headdresses with a pair of long ornamental staffs extending upwards from their backs and a drum strapped to their waists hat they beat strongly while dancing with deer-like movements.
Oga no Namahage (The Namahage of Oga) (Akita Pref.)
This is a ritual where young men of the town dress up as red and blue demons and go from house to house on the night of the 31st of Dec. supposedly seeking out lazy people to punish. It is a ritual intended to bring good crops and large catches in the coming year.
Kumano Jinja Shikinen Jinko-sai (Kumano Shrine Festival) (Chiba Pref.)
This Shinto festival is held once every 12 years in the Year of the Rabbit. Over three days a mikoshi (portable shrine enshrined with a deity image) is paraded through a determined course by thousands of festival participants. The climax of the festival comes when the mikoshi is carried down to the beach and into the water.
Tosa Shoro Nagashi (The spirit boat festival of Tosa) (Nagasaki Pref.)
On Aug. 15 every year during the Obon festival, boats decorated with lanterns are sent adrift on the river to receive the spirits of the ancestors that return to their family homes once a year during this festival.