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History

Oral tradition of origin

A dramatic oral tradition of origin is handed down in Tsuwano Dancing. In the time of Tenshoh 1 (1573), the final years of Sengoku Era, Korenori Shinjuro Kamei who later became the lord of Tsuwano was a comrade of the famous Shikanosuke Yamanaka (A feudal warlord who planned the restoration of Amako family that was destroyed by Mohri family). After Shikanosuke was defeated and killed by the Mohri family, Korenori took the side of Hideyoshi Hashiba who was the subordinate of Nobunaga Oda that was speeding up the attack of Chugoku Region, and was holding out in Shikano Castle, Inaba no kuni. Near the Shikano Castle, there was the strongly fortified "Kongoh Castle", and the lord Genroku Hyoudou cooperated with Tottori Castle and tormented the Hideyoshi army by attacking it from both sides. So, Hideyoshi decided to order Korenori to capture the Kongoh Castle.
The Kongoh Castle was strongly defended and they only lost the strength of the army if they attacked from the front. So Korenori decided to think out a plan. Genroku Hyoudou, the lord of the castle loved the songs and dances very much. When Korenori got this information, adopted new dances to folk entertainment, and let the people dance lively along the music of flutes and drums in the villages near the castle. The new dance became popular, and as the people were happy to dance, the dance spread out to the neighborhood all at once.
And...
The day was July 14th Tenshoh 9 (1581), the day of Urabon-e. A dance party was held in the castle town of Shikano with a decoration more beautiful than usual. A corps of Korenori joined one of the parties of dancers with a disguise. The dancers dancing enthusiastically proceeded gradually to the outskirts of the castle and soon overflowed near the Kongoh Castle. Men and women in the castle who wanted to see the dancers gathered outside the castle shouting for joy and even Hyoudou, the lord of the castle got mixed in the crowd and saw the dancers along with his retainers. When the dance reached its height, suddenly a fire broke out from the castle and there was a whoop. Genroku looked up the castle in surprise and saw the flag of four square crests of the Kamei troops waving in his own castle. The dancers became soldiers after they took off their masks and the costume of long sleeved kimono. The castle was completely taken over by the surprise attack. Genrokufs soldiers who was in the castle barely fled to Tottori Castle with their life.
After the incident, the Kongoh Castle was called "Odori mi no shiro (Dance viewerfs castle)", but today it is corrupted to "Odoromi" (cf."Tsuwano no sagimai to bon odori (Egret dance and Bon Dancing of Tsuwano)")

After the incident, Korenori Kamei spread the dance in the castle town as a festive custom of Urabon-e every year. After it became the Edo Era, in Genna 3(1617), the Kamei family was transferred to Tsuwano. In this occasion, he also moved this dance and he let the people dance everywhere in his castle town every year along July 15 of Bon season. He encouraged the dance notwithstanding the classes of warriors, farmers, artisans and tradesmen.
The oral tradition that the disguised soldiers won the battle by deceiving the eyes of the enemy by their dance are left everywhere in Japan. There is a similar oral tradition of origin in "Nanjo Odori (Nanjo Dancing)" of Hiroshima prefecture that is close to Tsuwano. Although we have to verify if the story was an actual historical event, we can read important factors from the oral tradition in considering the origin of the dance such as; it started around Sengoku to Edo Era, there was a spread of elegant and eye-catching dance, we can assume the relation with the ceremony to repose the dead because it is related to war.
"Tsuwano Dancing" from the eyes of Ougai Mori
Ougai Mori, the great writer in the Meiji Era comes from Tsuwano.
He introduces the memories of Tsuwano Dancing in his childhood in the famous autobiographical novel of his adolescence "Vita Sexalice". The novel touches on the situation of the early days of Meiji Era, but we can imagine that it was a Bon Dancing that leaves the atmosphere of the Edo Era, and it is one of the valuable historical materials that we can guess Tsuwano Dancing at the time.


"It was autumn in that year.
Bon Dancing was flourishing in my province. When Urabon of the lunar calendar came near, there was a rumor that the Dancing would be prohibited this year. However, the mayor who was born in other place said that it is not good to go against the people of his country, so it was decided to be tolerated. There is a town in a place that is few hundred meters from my house. There is a float in the town, and when evening comes, I could hear the sound of musical accompaniment of the dance from my house.
I asked my mother if I could go and see the dance, and she said you may if you come home early. So I put on my zori (Japanese sandals) and ran out.
This is not the first time to come to see the dance.
When I was very young, my mother would take me to see it. Ostensibly, the dancers are supposed to be from the town, but since they all dance hiding their faces under the hoods, you never know that there are many dancers who are the children of samurais. Some men disguise as women. Some women disguise as men. Those who donft wear the hoods, wear masks. In the western countries, they hold carnivals in January. Although the season is not the same, human beings tend to create similar events. There is a dance of harvest apart from this in the western countries, but they don't seem to wear a mask in this dance.
Many people dance in a circle. Some people come wearing a mask and just stand by and look at the dance. You can cut in and grab the dancer you like any time you want.

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