Hirasawa Akiba Shrine Okashira Rituals
Location: Hirasawa, Nikaho City
Site(s) of performance: Akiba Shrine and other places in the community
Date(s): 2nd Sunday and Monday of January
The performance mainly consists of the performance of the Lion Head Dance (also called the Twelve-Number Lion Dance), a kind of shishimai (lion dances). The performers go around the community and offer the dance of prayer at individual houses. This shishimai is performed by a lion with two performers. The priest stands with the altar to his back and the lion dances facing the priest and the altar. A small table is installed between the priest and the dancing lion, on which a talisman and various offerings such as rice, dried squid, and dried seaweed are placed. While the lion is dancing, the priest holds up the talisman and the offerings, which the dancing lion bites and then turns anticlockwise. It is also characteristic of this dance that the dancing lion executes the rituals of eating hard food for health and an earless dance with its ears hidden with cloth. While the lion is dancing, the priest faces it and continues to read out celebratory words. In addition to the two performers in the lion, the priest, three musicians (drum, Japanese flute, and gong), and a few assistants make up the troupe.