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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Performing Arts
Taiko odori
A folk dance of the furyū odori type. It is a group dance, in which the dancers attach a drum (a taiko or a kakko) to the chest or abdomen, and bear on their back a himorogi or a banner (nobori). They dance in time to a hayashi instrumental ensemble consisting of sasara, flute, hand-gong (kane) and drums. It is a ritual dance for avoidance of calamity, prayer for good harvest, thanksgiving, warding off insects from the rice fields, prayer for rain etc. In many instances it is accompanied by furyū songs. The dancers form a procession (michiyuki), and wind their way to the grounds of the temple or shrine. It is found in many areas of western Japan and in eastern Japan, the solo dances shishi mai and shishi odori are included in the taiko odori. Each region has its own unique variant and name. For example, in and around Mie there is the kakko odori and kanko odori; in Hyōgo the zanzaka odori; in Fukuoka and parts of Oita and Yamaguchi the gaku-uchi; in Miyazaki, Kumamoto and Oita the usudaiko odori; and from Oita to Kagoshima various types of taiko odori can be found. It is said to be a refined form of the tabayashi no dengaku, a musical accompaniment for rice-planting, or the dengaku odori. In some regions, it has a strong element of the nenbutsu odori (the chanting of the nenbutsu is combined with dancing) and is performed as part of New Bon (shinbon) memorial service (kuyō). Many taiko odori serve as rain dances, because it was believed that the rumbling of the drum which resembles thunder could summon rain. In the phoenix dance of Nishi Tama-gun in Tokyo the ōdaiko player sits in the middle of a circle of dancing drummers. This style of dance can be included in the broad category of taiko odori.

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