. shishimai 獅子舞と伝説 Legends about the lion dance .

Dance (odori, mai, kagura)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Dance, dancing is a worldwide human activity, done for various purposes at various times.
Some dances come as kigo.

odori 踊り
buyoo 舞踊
mai 舞
kagura 神楽

We will try to collect some haiku and information here.

Special dances as offerings for the deities at temples and shrines are also kigo, see below.

Gabi Greve

Dance of the Shrine Maidens, Autumn Festival 2005, Sakai
© Gabi Greve Japan

Kuya Shonin Nenbutsu Dance 八葉寺と空也念仏踊り
Hachiyoji Temple


Kigo for Autumn

Bon Dance, Awaodori Dance, Japan 阿波踊り


Kigo for the New Year

Daikokumai, Daikoku-mai 大黒舞 (だいこくまい)
Dance for God Daikoku
Daikoku mawashi 大黒廻し(だいこくまわし)
Daikoku Ten 大黒天 God of Good Luck

Ennen no Mai 延年の舞 Dance for Long Life
At Temple Motsu-Ji in Hiraizumi
Dance of Ennen at various temples in Japan.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Gongen mai 権現舞 (ごんげんまい) Gongen Dance

harukoma 春駒 (はるこま) "spring horse"
harukoma mai 春駒舞(はるこままい)
dance performance of young horses


Kagura Dance and Music are part of the Shinto Rituals for the Gods, relating to ancient legends and were performed by priests and shrine maidens.

. . . . . shishimai,  獅子舞 lion dance
shishi mai 獅子舞 (ししまい) lion dance

shishigashira 獅子頭(ししがしら)lion head
Echigojishi 、越後獅子(えちごじし)lion dance from Echigo
kakubeijishi 角兵衛獅子(かくべえじし)children doing the lion dance and acrobatic performance
Kagura Dance, Japan 神楽

source : ameblo.jp/a-late-bloomer
Echigojishi Daruma 越後獅子達磨
a papermachee doll from Himeji 姫路張子

observance kigo for the New Year
shishigashira no shinji - lion dance head ceremony
獅子頭の神事 (ししがしらのしんじ)

. . . . . ongashira shinji 御頭神事(おかしらしんじ)

On January 15. nowadays on February 15.
In the Ise region of Mie prefecture.

The ritual lion dance at the shrine Takoo Jinja 高向神社 Tako jinja, is especially famous.
Its ritual dates back more than 800 years and the lion head mask was made in 1038.
After a ritual dance at the shrine, the lion head performer walks through the village to purify each home. In the evening, ritual food is eaten and dances, especially sword dances 太刀舞 are performed.
The ceremony is a prayer for a good harvest, keeping away evil influence, illness and fire and pray for a happy family.


kitsune mai 狐舞 (きつねまい)

dance for the Fox Deity Kitsune
inariyama no shirogitsune 稲荷山の白狐(いなりやまのしろぎつね)
kitoogitsune 祈祷狐(きとうぎつね)Kitsune, Inari and the Fox Deities

maizaru 舞猿 dancing monkeys
sarumawashi 猿廻し (さるまわし) monkey dance performance
saruhiki 猿曳(さるひき)、猿引(さるひき)、
sarumaishi 猿舞師(さるまいし)trainer of dancing monkeys
maizaru 舞猿(まいざる)dancing monkey
tayuuzaru 大夫猿(たゆうざる)monkey as dancer

http://www.rakuten.co.jp/ takeyu/651245/

mai-zaru mo kutabire-gao wa sezari keri

dancing monkey--
its face also
isn't weary

Tr. David Lanoue

. Saru 猿 / 申  Monkey Amulets .

. . . . .

maizome 舞初 (まいぞめ)
first dance lesson, first dance
..... shimaizome 仕舞初(しまいぞめ


Renge-E Mai 蓮華会舞 Ceremony of the Lotos Dance
Renge Emai
at temple Oki Kokubunji 隠岐国分寺, Shimane
a kind of Dengaku dance

Reaching back to the Heian period.

The Renge-e-mai was performed by the children and for the children. The grown up people watched those little performers and spectators affectionately.

On the stage two children wearing a mask of bosatsu begin dozing off – “Sleeping Hotoke”.
It is followed by a single horn lion dance, sword dance by four boys, simple yet lovely farmer’s dance, “Suyaki”, Ryuo Dragon God dance etc., and ends with quiet “Hotoke dance”(hotoke mai 仏舞).
These dances represent the origin of Japanese religious performing arts and are commonly performed during the falling cherry blossom season. Years ago, 120 different kinds of dances were performed, but in recent years, the number has been significantly reduced.
Look at the photos :
source : photojapan.karigrohn.com


observance kigo for late spring

Tenzushi mai 天津司舞 (てんずしまい) Tenzushi no mai
Tenzushi dance

Kose-machi 小瀬町, Kofu City
At the shrine Tentsushi Jinja 天津司神社

Now on a Sunday in early April.
Sometimes also the 17th day of the 7th lunar month.

Performed by the 17 families of Kose town.

The nine wooden statues of the deities are covered in cloth and carried through town to the local Suwa shrine.
Sasara dance, small drums and large drums are performing music. It is a kind of Dengaku dance or ancient puppet show (gujin geki 愚人劇).

In former times this part of the Kofu plain was a wetland. So 12 deities Amatsujin 天津神 came down from heaven and performed a dance. Two of them went back to heaven, one died during the dance and the remaining nine stayed at the Suwa shrine 諏訪神社 of the village.

Important intangible folk cultural property since March 1976.


. The Suwa shrines of Japan .


Worldwide use


. Monkey Dance in the street .

Dance in India

Tiger Dance



. Isukuti dance  
by the Luhya people

Things found on the way

Dancing for Rain

World Kigo Database : Rain Rituals (amagoi)

World Kigo Database : Water Shortage


. Amulets and Talismans from Japan . 
The Lion Head Amulets

. Sanbasoo 三番叟 Sanbaso Dance .
often performed during the New Year season


Ritual lion dance performed in tsunami-hit Miyagi

Dancers in a tsunami-hit town in northern Japan performed a traditional New Year lion dance to remember the victims and pray for reconstruction.
The Watanoha district of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, has staged the dance each year for more than 400 years. Traditionally, performers go from house to house on New Year's Day to pray for the safety and prosperity of families.
But this year, the performance was more solemn. The local group lost its costumes to the tsunami, so dancers from other districts came to perform on sites where homes once stood.

After the performance, children placed their heads in the mouth of the lion -- a ritual for good luck. Adults prayed to the lion head.
A local community leader said he hopes the performance helped restore the community's bond so the people can work together on reconstruction.
source : www3.nhk.or.jp

. Japan after the BIG earthquake March 11, 2011 .


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. saruhiki wa saru no kosode o kinuta kana .
(saru hiki)

a monkey showman
with a little monkey jacket
on a fulling block

Tr. Barnhill

. saru o kiku hito sutego ni aki no kaze ikani .
with discussion of the hokku.

those who listen for the monkeys:
what of this child
abandoned in autumn's wind?

Tr. Barnhill

. . . . . New Year's Day

年々や 猿に着せたる 猿の面
toshidoshi ya saru ni kisetaru saru no men

year after year--
the monkey wearing
a monkey's mask

Tr. Barnhill

Year by year,
the monkey's mask
reveals the monkey.

Tr. Lucin Stryk

Year after year
On the monkey face
A monkey's mask.

The poem has a touch of bitterness unusual for Basho. He was dissatisfied with the progress that he (and possibly some of his students) was making.
Tr. and comment - Makoto Ueda

Written in 1693 元禄6年元旦

"Saru no men" さるのめん, a haikai book by
. Sakurai Baishitsu 桜井梅室 .


Kobayashi Issa

kamashishi ga ago de harainu kado no matsu

the lion dancer
takes a purifying bite -
pine decorations at the gate

If you are caught in the jaws of a shishi, it will bring good luck and strong teeth to children.
So the dancers went round and "took a bite" at children, and sometimes at the pine decorations.

kado shishi ya shishi ga kuchi kara ume no hana

lion puppet at the gate--
from his mouth
plum blossoms

Tr. David Lanoue

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

kado-jishi ya shishi ga kuchi kara ume no hana

lion dancers visit --
from the lion's mouth
plum blossoms

Tr. Chris Drake

The date of this New Year's hokku is unknown, but Issa wrote a similar hokku in the 1st month (February) of 1811, that is, soon after the new year began, when he was staying in Edo with his friend and patron Seibi (see Issa's collected works 1.48, 3.103). Lion dancers were street performers who walked around to people's houses and shops, especially at and soon after New Year's, and performed lion dances (shishi-) in front of doors or gates. Usually two men would perform the lion, or, more accurately, the lion god, which had a body represented by a long green cloth with white designs on it, while the man in front held up a large carved mask of a lion's face, which had a long mane attached and a large movable jaw, allowing the lion's mouth to open and close.

Together with the dancers walked musicians, usually at least a drummer and a flutist, and as the dancers performed the lion dance, some felicitous words blessing the house or shop for the coming year were usually sung. The words described the lion god bringing good fortune to the house and preventing things like fires or diseases. When the dance ended, the people in the house were expected to make a small contribution wrapped in a folded-paper envelope, which they usually put inside the mouth of the lion mask. In Issa's hokku, however, someone has placed a blossoming plum sprig in the mouth of the lion mask. Perhaps the person who put it there literally had no money left to offer after paying bills at the end of the year and offered the sprig instead, since a blossoming branch was believed to be part of the body of the plum god and bring the possessor good fortune.

The person might even be punning, since o-hana, or 'honorable blossom,' means a small gift of money on a festive or other special occasion. Or perhaps the plum blossoms were simply a gift from a warm-hearted person who also made a donation. Or perhaps the lion god's song mentions plum blossoms, and the operator of the lion head sticks literal plum blossoms out the head's mouth. In any case, the dancing lion seems to be visually singing out blossoms and good will to the people who live or work in the house or shop.

The short video at the link below shows a contemporary lion dance group performing a blessing dance for a small shop. In this case the door or gate would be the front of the store. In this video the lion is performed by only one dancer, a situation that is becoming more and more common as fewer and fewer people are able to do the dance. And no one is singing a song, as was often done in Issa's time.
take a look at : www.youtube.com

Chris Drake


dance recital:
long plaited hair in step
with her hips

Kala Ramesh
First published in Haiku Harvest, 2006


yabuiri ya kinou sugitaru yama kagura

homecoming servant--
Shinto dances on the mountain
ended yesterday

Tr. David Lanoue


taiko drums
beating the crisp welkin -
villagers dance 'til it rains

Takashi Nonin


The Maiden dances
Toward heaven unbound from stone
Joy flows through my heart

~ Edwina Peterson Cross ~

Click on the photo to read more about the dancing apsaras.

Related words

***** . NEW YEAR
Kigo for Humanity

***** WKD : Festivals of Japan

. Chindonya ちんどん屋 street musician .


. shishimai 獅子舞と伝説 Legends about the lion dance .




Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

saru hiki wa saru no kosode o kinuta kana

a monkey showman
with a little monkey jacket
on a fulling block

Tr. Barnhill

Written in 貞亨元年, Basho age 41 or later

a monkey trainer
pounds cloth on the fulling block
for a little monkey coat

Tr. Gabi Greve

Fulling Block

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

shishimai ni to o akehanatsu kurazashiki

opening the door
of the storehouse living room
for the Lion Dancers

Yoshida Futaba 吉田二葉
more about the kurazashiki

Gabi Greve said...

legend from Saitama 埼玉県 春日部市 Kasuga city
. shinshi 神使 messenger of god, divine messenger .
Suddenly there was a great storm and three masks of 竜神 the Dragon Deity fell on the ground.
This is the beginning of the shishimai 獅子舞 lion dance of the village. From upriver of the 江戸川 Edogawa there came the masks of the Dragon Deity and when the villagers performed the dance with them, there would be rain.
After dancing for seven days and nights the masks were seen as kami no tsukai 神の使い the messengers of the Deity and the villagers performed their ritual dance.

Gabi Greve said...

shishimai 獅子舞 lion dance
Legends about a lion dance
shishigashira 獅子頭と伝説 Legends about a lion head