Dance title Sanja Matsuri  In Japanese
Author Segawa Jok˘ II (lyrics)
Kiyomoto Saibŕ (music)
Fujima Kanjűr˘ I (choreography)

The 3-part Kiyomoto/Tokiwazu/Nagauta-based dance "Yayoi no Hana Asakusa Matsuri" was staged for the first time in the 3rd lunar month of 1832 at the Nakamuraza, starring Band˘ Mitsugor˘ IV and Nakamura Shikan II in the leading roles. This dance is still sometimes performed in its entirety but the second part, "Sanja Matsuri", is frequently staged independently.

Key words Aku
Hinokuma Hamanari
Hinokuma Takenari
Sanja Matsuri

This dance takes place along the Miyato river (the old name of the Sumida River). Two fishermen are at work in their boat. Suddenly 2 uncanny balls, which are set in clouds, position themselves over the 2 men, one cloud on top of each head. One ball symbolizes good and the other evil. The clouds go down and cover the heads of the fishermen. Then, they rise up in the sky and the two fishermen are now masked, one with the ideogram aku, meaning evil, and the other with the ideogram zen, meaning good. The magic of these ideograms is that they look like vividly expressive faces. The dance goes on in a lively atmosphere, with Aku˘ (the fisherman with the evil mask), doing his best to tempt Zen'˘ (the fisherman with the good mask) and try to lead him on the road to wrong-doing.


"Sanja Matsuri" means the 3-shrine festival. It is the most famous festival in T˘ky˘ and is deeply-rooted in the history of the city. 2 fishermen named Hamanari and Takenari found a golden statue of the Goddess Kannon in the Miyato river. The statue was enshrined in the nearby Asakusa village. Then, after their death, the two fishermen were also enshrined. These 3 deities, Kannon and the 2 fishermen, were prayed with great devotion and an important festival started to commemorate once every year (in March during the Edo period, in May nowadays) the miraculous river catch. There was a parade of floats, full of musicians and decorated with big dolls. The 2 fishermen in the dance are not Hamanari and Takenari but 2 dolls of the Sanja festival.


If the 2 dancers are not well synchronized, this quick-paced dance is really likely to be a failure. It is said that the best performers of "Sanja Matsuri", the duo made up of Band˘ Mitsugor˘ VII and Onoe Kikugor˘ VI, were in such a perfect harmony that they were able to perform the masked dancers with their eyes being closed.

Band˘ Mitsugor˘ IV and Nakamura Shikan II performing together in the dance "Yayoi no Hana Asakusa Matsuri", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1832 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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