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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Performing Arts
Shishi-mai
Lion dance. Also called shishiodori. A dance in which the performer wears a decorative lion head (shishigashira). "Shishi" is a term that can refer to wild animals in general, and there are also traditions of "deer" (kanoshishi) and "boar" (inoshishi) dances. Shishimai was introduced from the Asian mainland in ancient times as part of the arts of gigaku, bugaku, and sangaku. Originally, it took the form of a dancer performing while wearing a lion costume resembling a stuffed animal. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods it came to be performed along with sarugaku and dengaku and took on the form that can be seen today. Shishimai can be broadly divided into two-man and one-man varieties. In the former, one performer takes up the position of the head and the other the tail, thus forming a four-footed lion. There are also variations in which several performers form the body of the lion. In the latter one-man variety, a single performer plays the lion's part. This is the variety that can be seen most often in eastern Japan. Lion dances can be considered to have various ritual or symbolic functions, including the display of force to ward off evil, prayers for the protection of agriculture or for rain, harvest celebrations, and memorial services for wild animals. In addition to having been included in the classic performing art of , shishimai can also be seen in kabuki, where such dances make up a group of plays known as shakkyōmono.

— Yonei Teruyoshi
Lion dancing(shishimai) performed on the occasion of the Kōchi festival in Koza

Wakayama Prefecture, 2003

©Fujii Hiroaki

Lion dancing(shishimai) performed on the occasion of the Kōchi festival in Koza.

Wakayama Prefecture, 2003

©Fujii Hiroaki

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