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Shishimai and Bangaku

In Akita, the word Shishimai (Lion Dance) originally referred only to the lion dance of Bangaku, the ascetics’ kagura dance in the area around Mt. Chōkai. This kind of lion dance is performed by two people. While one performer holds the lion body (the large fabric behind the lion head), the other moves the lion head, with its mouth biting the air frantically to the beats of the drums. The lion head is often revered as a deity. An introductory dance is performed before the lion dance and other bangaku numbers after it, but because of the importance of the lion dance, the entire program is also called Shishimai (Lion Dance). On the days of Obon in summer, the lion goes around the community to visit individual houses. Within the shishimai of this category, there are Jingū-Jishi, Yasaki-Jishi, and other dance numbers, each of which has its specific purpose. As is also the case with other bangaku performances, the performance of shishimai is permitted only in a specifically defined period of year from the opening day to the closing day.
There is yet another kind of lion dance that is performed by two people but not derived from Kagura (or Bangaku). In Nikaho City, that kind of lion dance is called Gohōtō (Noble Treasure Head) or Jūnidan-Shishimai (Twelve-Number Lion Dance) and performed as prayer at religious festivals. On new year days, the lion head goes around the community to visit altars in individual houses. During the lion dance, people place a talisman in the lion’s mouth to give it a special power and then keep it for the health and safety of the household. Music is played with drums and gongs. This kind of lion dance is performed in some communities also for children’s rituals on the day of Hatsu-uma (the first Day of the Ox in February).

Bangaku is a kind of kagura dance in the shugen ascetics’ tradition. It is called bangaku only in Akita Prefecture and the northern part of Yamagata Prefecture. There were 48 dance numbers in total, 12 primary, 12 secondary, 12 sub-primary, and 12 sub-secondary. The etymology is unclear, but probably it was named bangaku because the order (ban) of performance was fixed, at least for the first. Some of them are ritualistic, such as the Okina Dance and Sanbansō Dance, which are close to Nō Dance, but there are also the Bushi Dance inspired by historic stories, Onna Dance (Female Dance), Furyū Dance, Kyōgen Dance, and other varieties. Music is played with drums, gongs, and Japanese flutes, but also sometimes with shamisen (three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instruments). In some cases, both dance and music were exclusively assumed by fixed families and passed down only from fathers to sons. The back screen, with various designs, is set in front of the altar to make a stage. Scripts are often written in Iidatehon, but Kyōgen Dance has no script and the performer improvises the speech for the dance.

Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Kōya-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Amaike-kōchū)
Matsudate-Tenmangū Shrine Sandaisan Gongen Dance
Ōgoto Shishimai
Ōyanai Shishimai
Shinden Shishimai
Iwayamachi Shishimai
Kanazawa Bangaku
Ōta Bangaku
Shitobashi Bangaku
Nakadate Bangaku
Tomine Hōtoku Bangaku
Kami-Isagosawa Bangaku
Oga Bangaku
Nekko Bangaku
Daino Bangaku
Mugurazawa Shishimai
Sakanoshita BangakuLocation:Sakanoshita, Yashima-machi, Yurihonjo City
Yashiki Bangaku
Iwaya-Fumoto Shishimai
Yagisawa Bangaku
Kōyawatari Bangaku
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Sarukura-kōchū)
Kairagefuchi Bangaku
Nakazawa Bangaku
Shibano Lion Dance
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Sagenabe-kōchū)
Hiyama Dance
Mizuokano Lion Dance
Izumisawa Bangaku
Sannai Bangaku
Hataya Lion Dance
Yasawagi Lion Dance
Nakamura Bangaku
Sankawa Lion Dance
Hajikamisawa Bangaku
Itado Bangaku
Yagi Bangaku
Numadate-Hachiman Lion Dance
Yachi Lion Dance
Yakunai Bangaku
Niida Bangaku
Ishigami Bangaku
Yamada Lion Dance
Tsuchiya Lion Dance
Nigorikawa Lion Dance (Nigorikawa Shishimai/Bangaku)
Gassan Shrine Lion Dance
Yamaya Bangaku
Tōshi Bangaku
Funauchiba Lion Dance
Chikanosawa Bangaku
Shinsawa Bangaku at Shinsawa Hachiman Shrine
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Maenosawa-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Shimo-Hitane-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Hirane-kōchū)
Kurokawa Bangaku
Kurobuchi Shishimai
Aramaki Bangaku
Kayagasawa Bangaku
Iseiji Bangaku
Chōkai-Hitachi Dance
Tane Bangaku
Chōkaisan Kotaki Bangaku
Sendō Bangaku
Katano Bangaku
Motoki Shishimai
Sawauchi Shishimai
Mukai-Takko Bangaku
Takamatsu Bangaku
Koiji Bangaku
Ōkurazawa Shishimai
Kuzuoka Shishimai
Akata Shishimai
Kamagadai Bangaku
Takaosan Kinpō Shrine Lion Dance
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Nikai-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Yagiyama-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Shimo-Momoyake-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Naka-Hitane-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Kami-Momoyake-kōchū)
Honkai Shishimai-Bangaku (Kami-Hitane-kōchū)
Fukuda Shishimai