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Nakatsu City , Oita Related category:
Nakatsu Gion Kitabaru Ningyo-Shibai(Kitabaru Puppet Play)    



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Entire story: 60 minutes
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Nakatsu Gion is a festival held every year around the end of July in prayer for securing protection from plagues, health, longevity, and good fortune. Its origin dates back to about 580 years, when the tutelary deity of the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto was divided and transferred here. This festival consists of "Kami-Gion," taking place mainly around the Nakatsu Shrine, and "Shimo-Gion," mainly around the Kuranashihama Shrine. These days, a total of 12 "Gion-Guruma (Gion floats)" and 2 "omikoshi (portable shrines)" parade in the town around the Nakatsu Castle ruin, minbu folk dance is performed and dedicated on the floats, and "nerikomi (a march toward a shrine, where gods reside)" is held at night in each of the shrines.

Kitabaru Ningyo-Shibai is a puppet play inherited in Kitabaru area, Nakatsu City since about 700 years ago, and designated as an intangible folklore culture asset of Oita Prefecture. "Long ago, HOJO Tokiyori, who had retired from the post of the regent in the Kamakura Shogunate, came to Kitabaru on a secret inspection tour and fell ill. But he recovered due to local residents' kind care, and, as a token of congratulations, they showed him dances as well as plays with eyes and noses painted on the back of their hands, which looked like puppets. He was extremely pleased and said to them, 'This place is neither near the sea nor the mountains. So, you shall dance in order to earn a living.'" This legend is said to be the origin of the play. On the first Sunday of every February, this play is performed in the Harada Shrine. And now this traditional art is preserved by the Preservation Society of Kitabaru Ningyo-Shibai and the puppet play club of Miho Primary School. The performed stories include "Okinawatashi ('shikisanban' or ceremonial dancing)," "Keisei Awa no Naruto (The Courtesan of Naruto in Awa Province)" "Date Musume Koi No Higanoko (The Greengrocer's Daughter)," "Hidakagawa Iriai Zakura (The Cherry Trees along the Hidaka River)," and "Ehon Taikoki (The Picture Book of the Meritorious Prince)."

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