NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/2/15


狂言 Kyougen Kyogen

Jp En

Kyogen is a Japanese traditional performing art established in the Muromachi period. It developed from Sarugaku at the same time as Noh.
  
Now, Nogaku shows Shikisanba, Noh and Kyogen.
  
There are three kinds of Kyogen: Hon-kyogen, which is performed independently; Ai-kyogen, which is performed during the intermissions of Noh performances as explanation or relaxation; and Sanbaso, which is also performed in Kabuki.
  
Kyogen features masks, dancing and dramatic elements. Unlike Noh, which mainly enacts tragedies, most Kyogen are impersonation and line-speaking dramas with comic themes and funny stories.
  
Kyogen is the first comic performing art in Japan and, unlike Karuwaza and Kyokugei, it may have stories, word games and irony.
  
The leading character in Kyogen is Shite, and the supporting character is named Ado. Costumes and masks are simpler than Noh. Most Kyogen characters are commoners or villains, while in Noh they are mostly divinities.
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猿回し Saru-mawashi Monkey Show

Jp En

Saru Mawashi in Japanese means 'monkey show' and is a street performance using a monkey.
  
The history of Saru Mawashi in Japan is long and dates back to its introduction from India via China. A monkey was supposed to be a guardian of a horse, which was important for samurai. Monkeys were kept in a stable and a monkey showman served generals.
  
'Monkey' is pronounced 'saru', which means 'leave' in Japanese. So, a monkey was believed to be able to remove your misfortune which is why they performed on New Year or at festivals all over Japan.
  
There are many different kinds of monkey performances because monkeys can imitate human actions like 'folding your legs under yourself', 'standing at attention' and 'reflection'. Monkeys can also do tightrope walking, pass through a ring and walk on stilts.
  
In 1963, the monkey show died out when the last monkey showman retired. But in 1977, the Suo Monkey Showa Association was revived and they continue to spread the show as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
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2007/1/25


十日恵比寿神社 Touka-ebisu-jinja Toka Ebisu Jinja Shrine

Jp En

Toka Ebisu Jinja Shrine enshrines Ebisu (God of Fishermen, Good Luck and one of the Seven Gods of Fortune) and Daikoku (one of the Seven Gods of Fortune), and is located in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Takeuchi Goemon, from a money-lending branch of the Kashigu Daiguji family, was a merchant from Hakata. In 1591, he happened upon a statue of the god Ebisu washed up on Kashi beach. Takeuchi took the statue home and seeing that he treasured and cherished the statue, his family fortune flourished considerably.

Word spread about the statue and many people came to worship it as the God of Prosperity in Business. By 1690, there were so many worshippers and believers, that a shrine, now known as the Toka Ebisu Jinja, was established. The shrine deities are Kotoshironushi-no-Kami (Ebisu) and Okuninushi-no-Kami (Daikoku). These gods are known to provide prosperity in business, safety for families, and good health.

From 8 to 11 January, a New Year Grand Festival takes place each year at the Toka Ebisu Jinja, during which approximately a million people come and visit the shrine. The Kachi-mairi, a famed event where 'geiji' (women performers) walk in a line to the shrine while singing the 'Toka Ebisu no Uta' song and playing shamisens, flutes and drums, is both elegant and magnificent. This annual event is held to invoke better fortune and prosperity in business throughout the year.
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2007/1/23


高麗館 Kouraikan Kouraikan

Jp En

At one point along the Tozawa road in Yamagata Prefecture, a foreign and exotic mood and space suddenly appear then spread over the green mountains. This is the Kouraikan. The Kouraikan is a complex of buildings filled with an exotic mood, which was built to introduce Korean culture and history to Japan, as well as deepen mutual understandings between the people who visit.

The Kouraikan was opened in 1997 as a symbol of friendship between Korea and Tsutsumigawa-shi and to get in touch with the ancient culture of the Korean Peninsula. All kinds of buildings and shops can be found within the Kouraikan, including a product hall that exhibits and sells traditional articles of everyday use. There are also handicrafts on display, a food culture hall introducing Korean food, an ethnic culture hall introducing Korean customs and arts, as well as a Korean garden filled with Korean flowers, such as the 'mukuge' and the 'klein'. Another area is the Norimadan, where the townspeople gather for amusement. All of these facilities help create a real Korean atmosphere.

The Kouraikan exquisitely replicates aspects of Korean history and culture, and shows the fondness and harmonious relationship that Korea and Japan have, at the same time giving visitors a feeling of compassion and excitement.
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2007/1/11


直島女文楽 Naoshima-onna-bunraku Naoshima-onna-bunraku (Naoshima Women's Puppetry)

Jp En

Naoshima-onna-bunraku is a form of traditional puppetry that has been designated as an intangible cultural asset of Kagawa Prefecture.
   It dates back to the Edo period from its beginnings on Naoshima island in Kagawa Prefecture. Naoshima island is in the Seto Inland Sea, near Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of Japan's four main islands. Naoshima is close to Okayama Prefecture on the mainland in Honshu.
   During the Edo period, the fiefdom of the lord of Naoshima (of the Takahara clan) was confiscated, falling under direct government control. The new Edo government lifted prohibitions on entertainment for the public. Entertainments thrived, including Kabuki (traditional Japanese theater where performers wear elaborate make-up) and Noh (classical Japanese   drama). The Naoshima-onna-bunraku originated from a form of puppetry, at this time, called Ningyo-jyoururi, in which dolls performed to shamisen music. However, during the Meiji period, bunraku puppetry on Naoshima lost popularity and eventually died out.
   However, during the Showa period, the art of Bunraku here was revived and restored by three women, and since then only women have performed Bunraku.  
   While playing the shamisen, three women maneuver one doll or puppet and narrate a story. Bunraku is indeed a tradition of great substance in Japanese culture.
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黒島口説 Kurusimakuduti Kurushimakudouchi

Jp En

Kurushimakudouchi is a song that accompanies the dancing typical to the small island of Kurushima, one of the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
   According to the 'Shimauta-kikou' ('Notes about Island Songs'), the song and dance forms, now known as the Kurushimakudouchi, were developed during the 19th and 20th centuries.
   The Kurushimakudouchi uniquely differs from other forms of Yaeyama entertainment in that the song follows a mainland-influenced concept called Shichigo-cho (a song composed of 7 sounds, followed by 5 sounds then repeating that pattern) that depicts folk traditions in a humorous, yet very lively, dance song. To this song, the dancers dance in an outfit that is supposed to represent the women of Kurushima: Basho clothes fastened by a Minsa sash, with a white towel wrapped around their heads, and bare feet. The outfit is definitely one of the main features of the Kurushimakudouchi, but the emotion and passion of the dancers is the most alluring point of the dance.
   The Kurushimakudouchi is unique even in Japan, with its humorous and lively songs, and its passionate and expressive dancing.
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