2016: Aozasa Shishi-Odori Dance Troupe

Aozasa Shishi-Odori Dance Troupe 青笹しし踊り

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For the first time in the United Kingdom, Aozasa Shishi Odori brings to Japan Matsuri the mystery of the timeless dance rituals of the gods from the mountains of north-eastern Japan.

Shishi-odori (deer dancing) has been passed down through the generations for hundreds of years and is still regularly performed by members of various local communities and taught in the local schools. Deer, traditionally seen as messengers of the gods, are represented by masked dancers who perform in memory of the ancestors, or in shrine rituals to ward off evil or in thanks for a good harvest.

Aozasa Shishi Odori traces its roots back over 400 years, although its precise origins are unclear. It is characterised by the dancers’ large horned masks and flamboyant movements and accompanied by a band of taiko drums and flutes. The tradition has been designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of national importance.

Aozasa is in Iwate Prefecture in northeast Japan, a little way inland from the coastal communities so drastically devastated in the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The group has been brought to Japan Matsuri with the generous support of the Japan Foundation.