17th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
Expelling evil spirits
Toyama prefecture is famous as one of the foremost places in Japan for the lion dance (shishimai), a traditional performing art. Performers in lion costume dance to the traditional festival music of flutes, gongs and drums. A fire ritual is part of the annual festival held every autumn at Futakuchi Kumano Shrine in Imizu, Toyama prefecture. After visiting every household in the town, three lions and a mikoshi (portable shrine) run through fire, burning away, it is believed, people’s impurities and defilements. This ritual is done twice, first in the evening and then during the night. The highlight of the festival is the sight of the three lions and the mikoshi, and the bold men propelling them, hurtling around the shrine grounds and dashing into the flames, over two metres in height. Toyama prefecture shishimai is divided into two types: mukade (centipede, i.e. a hundred legs) and futaritachi (four-legs). As the name suggests, futaritachi is performed by two people. Mukade, on the other hand, is performed by three or more people, a style rare in Japan.
© Hidetoshi Ogata.
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||Aug. 14, 2019, 1:21 a.m.