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Japanese Traditional Arts

Ara-odori (Sankasho Shrine Festival)
Art Category Festival
Name Ara-odori (Sankasho Shrine Festival)

Ara-odori is a gallant dance which people dance wearing costumes of warriors in Sengoku-era (15-16c) with bows, pikes and guns in their hands. It has been passed down for 400 years, from Tensei-nenkan (16c). It is devoted on the last Sunday of every September at Sankasho Shrine Festival. It is also performed at Nakato Shrine, in front of "Ara-odori no Yakata (building of Ara-odori)", 1km south of Sankasho Shrine.

The venue of the festival was built around the late 900s and the current one was rebuilt in 1818. The whole building was made of cypress and the architectural style is " Sangensha-dukuri". The architecture and 74 carvings on the main building are astonishing and praised as a modern masterpiece (registered as a Tangible Cultural Heritage of Miyazaki Prefecture in 2002). Okumiya (the other building of the shrine) is situated on Mt. Futakami, which has a lore of Tenson-kourin (descent of the grandson of the god to the earth). Sankasho Shrine is also famous for rhododendrons. In April and May, approximately 12,000 Tsukushi rhododendrons bloom.

The festival is said to have been started by Sakamoto Iganomori Masayuki in Tensei-nenkan, a period at the end of the 16th century.He was the owner of the Sakamoto Castle, located 1km south of the shrine. The dance replicates organization of wars in Sengoku-era (15-16c). It has been preserved for 400 years until today by people in Sakamoto district, where the castle is located. The dance is assigned according to districts and some roles have been transmitted by inheritance: Odori-dayu (singers behind the curtains), Taiko-tsuki (drummers), and Manmaku-hari (those who hang the curtains).

A total of about 60 people hold pikes, guns and swords in their hands, play 23 roles and dance vigorously under the leader called Shinbochi. Successors of Senkoji Temple under the control of Sakamoto Castle have taken over the dance for generations and played the role of Shinbochi. It is also said to be followed by domestic monkeys. There were 18 kinds of dances originally, and 13 of them such as "Gomon no tei no Odori" and "Goshoden Odori" have been passed down currently. Each dance takes 30-40minutes to play and the whole dance requires 5-6 hours. Besides, dances and costumes vary by role. When dancing in procession ,people dance lively according to their roles while in circle everyone dance in the sameway. They dance in procession at the beginning "Deha (Kickoff)" and the end "Iriha (return)". The one performed in circle has 12 variations such as "Gomon no tei", "Goshoden Odori", "Kamigata Odori" and "Choja Odori".

[National Designated Intangible Folk Cultural Asset]
Provided by: Miyazaki Prefecture Department of commerce, tourism and labor
Agency of tourism product and East-Asia strategy
Tourism Development Division
Translation: Shione Furuta, reviewed by Marina Izumi

City/Town Sankasho, Gokase-cho, Miyazaki Prefecture
Location Sankasho Shrine
Date: the last Sunday of every September
Contact Department of regional development of Gokase- cho, Miyazaki Prefecture
TEL: 0982-82-1717
(Japanese only)
Access By car: 1.5km from Gokase town office toward Takachiho via Route 216.
1.5km via Route 503
By bus: 1 hour 20 minutes by Express Bus "Aso" from Nobeoka Bus Center in front of Nobeoka Station. Get off at Gokase Yakuba Mae.
Highlight/POI The highlight is firing of harquebuses at "Deha" and "Ihiha", performed in parade. As the performance approaches an end, drums are beaten with players jumping. After the sound of the trumpet shell, 2 harquebuses are fired. The procession of dancers changes its shape dramatically and people dance even more strongly.

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