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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Performing Arts
Deer dance. A folk ritual performance in which the dancers wear decorative deer heads with antlers. Shishiodori can be considered a variation of the one-man shishimai (or shishi-odori). The reading of the character as "shishi" derives from the fact that deer were called "kanoshishi." Although deer sometimes eat crops, they can also be beneficial to agriculture by feeding on pests. In any case, they can be considered an animal intimately related to agriculture. In ancient times, deer bones were also used in divination. The basic form of shishi odori involves eight or twelve dancers centered around a lead pair representing a male and female deer. The dancers beat small drums attached to their chests and also sing dance songs. However in other examples, the dance is performed by a group of three dancers. Shishi odori can be found throughout Japan, but is most common in the Tōhoku region. The shishi odori of Uwajima, Aichi Prefecture, is said to have been transmitted to the area when a branch of the Sendai domain's Date family was assigned there.

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