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Japanese Traditional Arts

Art Category Folk Performing Art
Name Kaga-manzai

Kaga-manzai, which begins with "Shiki-sanbaso" full of blessings for a coming new year, is a special tradition for New Year's Day in Kanazawa as well as a classical performing art originating in Echizen-manzai. Dressed in a red Daikoku hood and unique attire, performers visit houses on New Year's Day to celebrate the beginning of a new year. This is one of the famous scenes in the city with a unique atmosphere reminiscent of the ancient times of Kaga domain.

Kaga-manzai originated in Echizen-manzai performed by farmers as an annual event for New Year's Day in Nootsubo, Fukui Prefecture, under the governance of former Fuchu area (present Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture, Central Japan) by the feudal lord Maeda Toshiie. In the late 16th century, his entry into Kanazawa Castle triggered the residents' mimicking of the performance.
In the Bunka-bunsei era in the Edo period around the 17-19th century, the Hosho-school Noh actor Oishi Togoro in Kanaya-cho established an innovative, more elegant and refined manzai with the local dialect interspersed, by developing the dance and lyrics of the Echizen-manzai and incorporating Noh elements. The new type of manzai was called Ji-manzai (meaning local manzai) at that time, which provided the basis of the present Kaga-manzai.
Ji-manzai was performed at houses of old-established families and big merchants as well as in vaudeville shows at amusement quarters in the Meiji period in the late 19th century and has come to be called "Kaga-manzai" since Showa period, the early 20th century. However, Kaga-manzai reduced its successors rapidly influenced by the manzai boom and the war. Followed by the designation as a Kanazawa cultural property in 1975, the performing art has been under efforts of preservation and inheritance led by Kaga-manzai-hozonkai (preservation association).

Kaga-manzai generally consists of dialogues between a master called Tayu and his servant Saizo, or sometimes of the dance of solely Tayu with musical accompaniment of Saizo. The performing art currently has 54 pieces comprising the typical 52 pieces, according to "Kaga-manzai" written by Heiji Fukua, and another 2 pieces of "Hokuriku-tetsudo" and "Kenrokuen" unmentioned in his work.

Among them, the most representative pieces are "Shiki-sanbasou", "Machi-zukushi", and "Kitaguni-dochu". Formally, Kaga-manzai always starts with "Shiki-sanbasou" which presents a wedding held with a prayer of longevity and prosperity of an old-established family. This program presents a refined formal dance called Shikibu with no comical expressions. The other two "Machi-zukushi" and "Kitaguni-shimo-douchu" had been popular among a number of general people as well as feudal lords.
"Machi-zukushi" presents a song incorporating the names of the towns, shrines, and temples in Kanazawa city elaborately using jo-kotoba (preface words) and kake-kotoba (paronomasias). Starting with Kodatsu-no-dai, for example, the song orderly introduces Saigawa, Teramachi, Issaka, Korinbou, Musashi, Asanogawa, Utatsu, and locations near the station. Unfortunately some of them disappeared, which shows us the passage of time. In this piece, only Tayu dances like in a formal Shikibu performance to the lyrics sung with musical accompaniment called 'nagashi'.
"Kitaguni-shimo-douchu" describes the travel of feudal lords to Edo, former Tokyo, according to the Shogunate 'Sankin-koutai' system of alternate attendance in the capital to demonstrate his loyalty, via Hokuriku-do Road, Hokuriku Highway through Nakasen-do Road. The piece consists of 12 songs in total including mae-uta (introduction) and ato-uta (ending), which incorporate the names of the locations, scenic spots, and local features along the way as elaborate preface words. Tayu and Saizo dance to the song without music accompaniment during the performance called 'ban-mono', a typical slow song piece.

Another feature of Kaga-manzai lies in its attires and musical instruments.
Tayu wears unique attire called 'suoh' with a Samurai-eboshi (a small folded black-lacquered headwear) on his head, sword at his waist, and a folding fan in his right hand, signifies his higher rank than common people. The attire 'suoh' employ black-dyed hemp cloth with a pattern of two stripes and flying cranes, either white cranes or red-crowned Tancho-zuru cranes, while some attires employ a combination pattern of thick and thin stripes and plum blossom.
Saizo, a partner wears attire consisting of black-dyed crested formal kimono with separate pleated trousers, characterized by his headwear. He wears a red beret-like headwear at 'nagashi' musical accompaniment, while wearing a headwear called 'kamasu-boushi' at other 'ban-mono' performances called. 'Kamasu-boushi' is a horizontally long headwear looking like 'kamasu', a square-shaped grain container made of straw. The headwear has a long thing chin strap and, on surface, gorgeous embroideries with plum blossoms or a lion with peonies patterned. Both types of headwear presenting somewhat humorous atmosphere fully set off Saizo's individuality.

Unlike Echizen-manzai performed at entrances of houses, Kaga-manzai, often referred to as "Goten-manzai" or "Zashiki-manzai", is typically performed in tatami-matted rooms in the presence of high-ranked people. This requires Tayu and Saizo to wear white tabi-socks, therefore always bringing a few pairs of brand-new white tabi-socks with them to show white soles at their every performance.
Kaga-manzai uses small drums like Echizen-manzai, unlike Mikawa-manzai and Owari-manzai which use hand drums. A small drum refers to a black-lacquered low-cylindrical body made of bent Japanese cypress sheets with a skin-covered top and bottom as well as a pair of sticks attached with strings. The sticks, formerly made of rattan, are usually made of small bamboos today due to the difficulty to obtain rattan.

[Nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property]
(Text) Tourism Promotion Section, Marketing Strategy Division, Economic Department, Kanazawa City
(Photo) Kanazawa City Tourism Association
Translation: Tomoko Yamamoto, reviewed by Marie Mine

City/Town Honda-cho, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture
Location Annual spring performance event
At: Maeda Tosanokami-ke Shiryokan Museum, Kanazawa City
Date: Early January
Also performed in various locations
Contact Tourism Promotion Section, Marketing Strategy Division, Economic Department, Kanazawa City
Tel +81-(0)76-220-2194
(Japanese only)
General Participation Kaga-manzai is available at:
Location: In Kanazawa City
Date: Anytime

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