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Ishigaki City , Okinawa Related category:
A hometown dance -Shishiodori dance of Ishigaki Island    

Digest: 3 minutes
Entire story: 22 minutes
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In the Azatonoshiro area, which lies at the heart of Ishigaki City, the Shishimatsuri Festival is held on the 16th day of the 7th month, the day after the bon according to the Lunar Calendar, in the household of Arashiro which is the head family of the shishi (lion) and the Miroku (Maitreya). This festival is for praying for the health and safety of azamin or local people and is carried out solemnly at the hands of the areas elders and the members of the Shishi Preservation Society. Just after 5 oclock in the evening, three Kanzukasa or Shinto priests start praying, expressing gratitude to the gods, shishi and Miroku, for the health and the safety of azamin over the previous year and to pray for the coming years health of the azamin using unique okome rice.
After all the congregation have drunk the sacred sake which had been offered to the gods, all of them sing a dedicating song together, starting with the Muzonenbutsu-bushi, and then conclude the ritual with the Miroku-bushi.
Then, the person in charge of the shishi reports to the shishi god, together with the Kanzukasa, that shishimai will be performed and the shishigashira or headgear of the male shishi and the female shishi are handed over to the two assistants from the altar. The members of the Shishi Preservation Society tie them to pieces of leather. At around 8 oclock, when darkness approaches, there begins the shishimai dance of Tonoshiromura.
The shishimai begins with the gong played by a flutist. The four "Kanta bo" lure the male lion. The female lion comes out as well and they pay a visit to the gods. The dance then depicts the valiant life in the wild. In the end, the shishi perform an exorcism by pretending to bite the sore areas and heads of the people with physical pains and sores and mental concerns and those of children so that they will grow up to be healthy and sound.

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