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Bon Dancing Travel 2000
August 16 "Niino Bon Dancing" #2
The bus weaves its way though the mountains in nightfall
The bus weaves its way though the mountains in nightfall
When the sun almost went down, the last bus for Niino finally arrived.

The bus weaves its way though the mountains in nightfall
When the sun almost went down, the last bus for Niino finally arrived.
Of course, we are the only passengers.
After the bus left Nukuta Station and went across the Tenryu River, it climbed the sloping road endlessly. The beautiful mountain range in sunset could be seen from the bus window. Paper lanterns were hang out in some settlements along the way. Probably, Bon Dancing of Okuri Bon (Bon event to send the ancestor's spirits off) is going to be held around this area.
The mountain path meanders in though the deep moutains. It gains its altitude little by little going past the dark forests and deep mountain streams.
The mountain path meanders in though the deep moutains. It gains its altitude little by little going past the dark forests and deep mountain streams.
Niino yoi toko Sengokudaira
Yome ni yaritaya moraitaya
Niino is a good place where the land is rich
Would like to marry off and also take in marriage

(From the Niino Bon Dancing song)

The bus kept running until it entered a street and stopped at its halfway.
We finally arrived in the town of "Niino" in the twilight gloom.
We were very impressed to "Okuribi (Fire to send the spirits of the ancestors)"

The Okuribi blink on up and down the street

Send the spirits off with Okuribi
We got off the bus.
When we looked at the street carefully, something like a small branch was burning on the street in front of each houses.
"It's Okuribi!"
We were alrealdy thrilled. Immediately we proceeded the street, and found a grandpa teaching his grandsons how to build a fire of Okuribi.
It was a heartwarming scene.
We knew that there was something called "Okuribi". But this was the first time for Yanagita to see the real thing. This is a folkway that has been lost in many regions, and we got excited to the fact that Niino is a region that carries down a precious folk custom where both Bon Dancing and Okuribi is carried down.
However, Ishimitsu gave a questioning look. He told me later that his family performs Okuribi even now, so it was not especially unusual for him.
Anyway, the scene of Okuribi in a village in the mountain valley in the nightfall impressed us feelingly.
The both of us were very tired.
We wished if we could stay in a hotel but we were "homeless" that day. There are few hotels in Niino, so the reservations were full, and we could not reserve one single room after all. Today, we are really going to sit up all night long. The only recourse is the advance information from the town office that "There is a temporary rest station where you can catnap." As we walked along the street, it appeared that the first floor of the private residence along the street was open to public. We were a little bit relieved to this. We settled in a buffet in town and decided to consider about the strategy of news gathering of today's dance while we had dinner. The premise was already fairly crowded with viewers and local people. We had our nutrition support with the institution "Gohei mochi" set menu and beer.In the seat next to us, a rather old lady was having dinner alone. She said that she came here to see this Bon Dancig from a very far place. As was expected, here we found another fan of Bon Dancing.
"Kiriko Lanterns" gather together
8:00PM
We finished dinner, took a breather, and went outdoors. The town was pitch-dark.
It seemed that the preparation of Bon Dancing has begun to start around the dancing scaffold in the center of the street. Suddenly, a pickup truck stopped in front of the office of Dance Preservation Association as we took our stand in front of the office and waited for the dance to start. When we looked into it as we held a digital camera, we found an amazing "Kiriko Lantern"! In Niino, people gather the lanterns that were used in Niibon or Shimbotoke (The spirits of the dead who died after the Obon of the previous year and until the Obon of the current year, in this case the family of the dead), and decorate them around the dancing scaffold on this day.
Later on, the Kiriko Lanterns arrived one by one, and ultimately, a total of 23 (I heard so) lanterns was gathered. We know from this that in Niino, 23 people passed away in this year.

Kiriko Lantern arrives

They hang around the scaffold

You can also take a commemorative picture
In the Bon Dancing of Oku Minoh Region, Kiriko Lanterns were something of an abstraction. The Kiriko Lanterns in this place still have the reality of "death". In the night of August 15, which is the last day of Obon, Kiriko Lanterns will be decorated around the dancing scaffold, and the local people dance all night long around it. It is literally a Bon Dance you dance with the new spirits (people who died recently). Therefore, we can say that the main character of this dance are the new spirits and their family. In Niino, we can still see the soul of Bon Dancing that perhaps goes back to the Middle Ages but is forgotten in the present days.
We waited for the dance to start as we watched the construction of the dancing scaffold and strolled around. However, people gathered and started a lecture meeting at the "temporary rest station" that we found a while ago. We said in our hearts; "You will allow us to sleep later on, aren't you?" We got a little bit anxious since the rest station is our only recourse.
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