What is Nishimonai Bon Odori?

bon odori

Until recent times, the origins of the Nishimonai Bon Odori have been handed down through oral instruction.

In the 1280s there was an ascetic priest called Genshin. He worshipped at the Zao Gongen (the present Mitake Shrine in Nishimonai), and made the villagers perform a dance in the temple grounds to pray for a good harvest.

In 1601, Lord Shigemichi Onodera of Nishimonai burned down his castle and fled after being defeated in battle. His remaining followers danced in the grounds of the nearby Hosen Temple to remember their lord. Over time this dance merged with the older harvest dance. In the 1780s the dance was moved to its present location, taking the form that we have inherited.

In the Taisho Era (1912-1926), the police banned the Nishimonai Bon Odori as a disturbance of public morals. The dance suffered as a result, but after several years it recovered due to the peoples enthusiasm.

Today, in order to popularize and pass on the dance, the Nishimonai Bon Odori Preservation Society holds a practice on the third Saturday of every month.



The music of flutes, drums, and other instruments that accompany dancing in order to keep time and add feeling is called "hayashi." There are three kinds of hayashi in the Nishimonai Bon Odori: "Yosedaiko," used to signal the start of the evenings dancing; as well as "Ondo" and "Ganke," which accompany various dances.

The accompanying instruments consist of:
taiko (bass drum)    kodaiko (snare drum)   tsuzumi (hand drum)
surigane (hand gong)  yokobue (wooden flute)  shamisen (three-stringed banjo)


There is also a vocalist who sings along with these instruments. The vocalist and the accompanists are called "hayashikata." For the flute and shamisen there are multiple accompanists and the other instruments have one accompanist each. Together they perform two songs for the Nishimonai Bon Odori called "Jiguchi" and "Jinku." These songs have colorful lyrics which satirize soicety, are full of rustic beauty and atmosphere, and suggest the simple eroticism peculiar to farmers.

There is a stage, called a "yagura," in the center of the dancing place. The accompanists, or "hayashikata," perform on this stage until late at night. On the right and left of the stage are pillars with words that pray for a good harvest written on them.


One strong point of the Nishimonai Bon Odori is the constrast between the boldness and liveliness of the hayashi, and the flowing elegance and beauty of the dancing. There are two dances, called "Ondo" and "Ganke." The mournful melody of "Ganke" drifts in the lyrics and intonation.


  Hanui (端縫)

"Hanui" are beautiful patchwork kimono peculiar to the Nishimonai Bon Odori. Many women dancers wear hanui. They are worn with a straw hat called "amigasa." Hanui are made by piecing together odds and ends of silk fabric. The belt, or "obi," is usually understated, and tied in the style of a palace maid. Women of old made hanui with all their hearts. Their art has been passed on for generations, and we want to pass it on into the future.


  Hikosa Zukin(彦三頭巾)

Some dancers wear a black hood when they dance the Nishimonai Bon Odori. We call this black hood "Hikosa Zukin." It reminds us of the dead, and gives us visionary feelings. It creates an atmosphere like ghosts dancing. There are various opinions, but the origins of the Hikosa Zukin arent clearly known.



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