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History

Oral Tradition of Origin


The origin of Tsukudajima
Tsukudajima Nembutu Dancing started in Edo Era, and has strong relations with the history of Tsukudajima. To begin with, the origin of Tsukudajima is as follows according to "Minyou no Furusato wo iku (Traveling the home of folk songs)"; " When Ieyasu Tokugawa made a triumphal entry into Edo, he made a pilgrimage to mausoleum of Settu Tada and Sumiyoshi Shrine. In this occasion, the fishermen of Tsukudajima, Settu Nishinari County carried across the party of Ieyasu on a fishing boat, and this became the beginning. The fishermen's leader Magoemon Mori and his 34 men settled in Tukudajima, the sandbank of Sumida River in Tenshou Years (1573`1591), and this is the time when the people began to live in Tsukudajima. Because of this origin, the people of Tsukudajima "were very prosperous" in the Edo Era, according to "Minyou no Furusato wo iku ".
And other opinion says that "When Ieyasu Tokugawa entered the capital, they were given the land and the fishing rights in recognition of carring food." (dictionary)
From these oral traditions, we can imagine the circumstances in which the early settlers led by fishermen of Tsukudajima Osaka made a new community in Tsukudajima while keeping a good relation with the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Tsukudajima Nembutu Dancing and Hongwanji Religious Order
The group of early settlers to Tsukudajima were also the followers of Hongwanji Religious Order, and it is considered that they achieved an important role in transmitting Nembutu Dancing to Tsukudajima. There is a tradition that Tsukudajima Nembutu Dancing moved the songs and dances from Kyoto Hongwanji for there are opinions such as; "There is an oral tradition that they handed down the "Chimba (Crippled) Dancing" of Kyoto Hongwanji to Tsukudajima" ("Nihon no Minyou (Folk songs of Japan)"), "The songs that are sang in Nembutu Dancing are also being  moved from the Chimba Dancing of Kyoto Hongwanji."(dictionary) By the way, "Chimba Dancing" is no longer handed down orally in Kyoto Hongwanji. About the start of Nembutu Dancing in Tsukudajima, there is a more direct oral tradition relating to the completion of Tsukiji Hongwanji. According to "Tsukudajima Bon Odori ni tsuite (About Tsukudajima Bon Dancing)"(Tsukudajima Bon Dancing Conservation Association), Nishi-Hongwanji (annex) which was located in Hama-chou, Nihombashi Chuo Ward at the time was burned down by The Big Fire of Meireki(1657) (Furisode Kaji (long sleeved kimono fire)). Because of this, Chubei, the leader of Tsukudajima made every effort to reconstruct the annex in a seaside near Tsukudajima. With the approval of the shogunate, all the residents of Tsukudajima contributed to the reclamation work, and completed the reclaimed land called "Tsukiji". In Empou 8 (1680), they reconstructed the Tsukiji Hongwanji Midou without accident. They say that the dance which they started dancing in this occasion is the origin of the present Bon Dancing. The circumstance is written in "Tsukudajima Bon Odori ni tsuite" as follows; "The pious fishermen held this as an event to worship the spirit of the ancestors. In the period of Urabon in July, they lined up the lanterns on the parapet by the riverside, and the young people who are proud of their songs led the chorus with the monotonous sound of the drum in the river wind. Men and women of all ages danced through the night around this, and consoled the spirit of the ancestors. The relation with Hongwanji Religious Order can be seen in the oral tradition of how to dance. "Kengyou Dancing"(Kouzuhara Ibuki-chou Sakata-gun, Shiga Prefecture) which is orally handed down in Shiga Prefecture is also called "Chimba Dancing (Crippled Dancing). The origin of this name is described in the dictionary as follows; "A samurai named Magoroku Suzuki from Nagahama was injured in the battle of Kizu Osaka. The dance introduced the way the crippled Magoroku danced. There is a similar story in Tsukudajima. It says that, "In the early days of Edo Era, when a bonze named a certain Ishiyama lived, the group of followers divided in two and fought with each other. The side of Hidano-kami Suzuki won in this fight and described the movements of victory anouncement in a dance. This is the origin of Chimba Dancing (Crippled Dancing). Since the dancer's leg were injured and dragged his right leg, the movement became the choreography of Bon Dancing"(Dictionary). These are oral traditions that explains the origin of Chimba Dancing (Crippled Dancing), and we can see that although the locations are far apart, they include very common information. Also, we can assume the existence of common information sources that relates to the group of followers of Hongwanji in Kyoto and Osaka. As we can see from these oral traditions, we can consider that Tsukudajima Nembutu Dancing was formed through strong relations with Hongwanji Order in the modern times.

Old Bon Dancing that we can see in the records


Since they had relationships with Hongwanji, people of Tsukudajima "went around Edo City in Bon season to gather donations and dedicated them to Hongwanji . They also danced in this occasion." (Minyou no Furusato wo Iku(Travel the home of folklore)). The state of Tsukudajima Bon Dancing in Edo Era as can be seen here are recorded in several old essays.
:Edo Funai Ehon Fuuzoku Ourai" (written by Kiichirou Kikuchi)

"In Tsukuda Dancing, everyone come out in the nights of August 13th to 15th . Old people living in Tsukudajima gather in groups and light the lanterns written Tsukudajima. They clang gongs, and sing "Yaatose, yaatose" chanting Nembutsu in tune. They stroll about from Kyobashi to Nihombashi. They pray to Amida Buddha at the houses who invite them and dance clanging the gongs. They receive small charity and go to other houses that invite them. They are innocent and interesting to watch."

:"Shinsen Tokyo Meisho Zue" (Meiji 34)

" In old days, people danced Bon Dancing throughout the city of Edo, but in these days, the custom has ceased for a long time. Only in Tsukudajima, the old style still remains, and they perform the dance under special permission up until now. I presume that this is because there is a connection that it was transmitted from Tsukudamura in the country of Settsu. Every year from July 12th to 16th, they start the dance every evening and finish at eleven o'clock."


From these records, we can understand that Tsukudajima Bon Dancing at the time had a "moving" style which they promoted Buddhism through tours around Edo City, together with a local community style which they danced in the center (presently around 1 choume) of Tsukudajima. As we can see here, entertainments like dances touring around local positions remain in great numbers in Nembutsu Dancing and Bon Dancing around the country. It shows the old state of Bon Dancing and Nembutsu Dancing. By the way, in Shiraishi Bon Dancing which they point out that has something in common with Tsukudajima, there remains Bon Dancing events of a type that dancers visit the houses that see their first Bon.
According to the records, these touring type dances are made up of mainly 10 aged people, and it differs with the present Tsukudajima Bon Dancing in the point that they use the "gongs". It can be considered that the form is rather closer to the form of "Nembutsu Kou" which can be seen in various places these days.
These "Tour around city type" dancing was cancelled by the reform of Town Magistrate Tooyama Saemon-no-jou in Tempou 2 (1831). After this, it is said that "They became to dance in Tsukudajima and the beaches around or in vacant lands like a place where they dry fishing nets. (Minyou no Furusato wo Iku, or Travel the home of folk songs). Also, some people point out that similar Nembutsu Dancing "was also danced in Tsukiji and Teppouzu until the Meiji Era"(Dictionary)

From the movement of folk songs


We can also find a clue to the origin of Tsukudajima Bon Dancing from the distribution of folk songs nationwide. The songs that have similar tune with Tsukudajima is dotted along the coast of western Japan around Inland Sea. "Coastal regions and islands like Chugoku and Shikoku area which put Inland Sea in between" such as Shiraishi Island Okayama Prefecture and "coastal regions of San-in to Ohita Prefecture in Kyushu"(Min-you no Furusato wo Iku) are the examples.
Indeed, the note of "Shiraishi Dancing" is very similar to that of Tsukudajima Nembutsu Dancing (cf. the sound link above). Therefore, it is considered that this type of songs "spread through sea route although the birthplace is unknown, and this was introduced all the way to Tsukudajima.(Min-you no Furusato wo Iku) There are no historical material that concretely shows the period of diffusion and circumstances, but there is every possibility that fishermen of modern times based in Inland Sea had a role in the diffusion of the song to Tsukudajima.

Sound Record
Tsukudajima
Shiraishi
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