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Bon Dancing Travel 2000
August 16 "Niino Bon Dancing" #5
Odori Kami-okuri (Dance to send the gods off)
People are still dancing "Noto" at the dancing site. However, little by little, tension began to fill the place.
It was about 10 minutes after the parade left the site.
Suddenly, "Bang, bang", the crack of gun blared out around the place. It seemed something like a signal. The dance became more and more enthusiastic.
In the course of time, the parade of lanterns came back from far away. They bang the tegane (handheld gong), making a big sound, and parade the way singing, "Nanmaidambo", "Nanmaidambo". This is a phrase that remains the tradition of the Nembutu art of the old Middle Ages.
It was a group that had an eccentric impact, and we haven't seen this kind of group before.

The parade comes back

This is the scene of the end of Obon in Niino.

The parade of lanterns that came back has now become the "Obon" itself. The front of the parade of "Obon" is still "summer" and the back is already "autumn". Therefore, here you can have a very exceptional experience that is, watch the passing of summer and the coming of autumn literally in front of you.
And as the parade of "Obon" passes in front of themselves, people quit the dance one after another and follow after the parade. In the place where "Obon" has passed and autumn has come, it is not allowed to dance the Bon Dancing until the next year Obon.
The mixture of "Life" and "Death"
Suddenly, 7 to 8 young men and women jumped in to the middle of the road. They started dancing forming a scrum. The song that they are singing in a tremendous speed seemed to be the dance song of "Noto".
The youngsters blocked the procession of the parade by dancing and starting the circle.

The scrum stopped the parade
The parade of "Obon" once stopped in front of the scrum, but started moving before long.
The muscular caretakers put their fingers on the scrum of youngsters and tore the youngters from the scrum, one by one. In the beginning, the caretakers made allowance to the youngsters, but soon both of them got serious and the scrum was droven out in the bustle.
Probably, the formerly young men who were in the side which formed the scrum has turned to the side of breaking it in the course of time. The parade of Kiriko Lanterns started the magnificent procession once again, singing, "Nanmaidambo".
But the youngsters has not given up yet. They got to their feet at once, had a start on the "Obon" parade for about 10 meters, and again formed a scrum and fought back. Those who have already quit dancing moved all together to watch this. And again the parade shoved in to the scrum. By this time, those who are dancing and those who are watching it were excited at its height.
It was definitely an amazing scene.

With the last fighting spirit

People cheering from the windows of the houses
"Shuukyou no shinsou (The depth of religion)" written by Toshimaro Aman (Chikuma Bunko (Chikuma Publishing)) describe this scene as "The antagonism between life (young men) and death (Kiriko lanterns). However, "the death" wins out after all. Mr. Aman pierces that "This is the image of the transience itself."
A boy about the age of junior high school entered the scrum given a kick in the back by his father. He was shy at first, but he got caught up in the ripple of excitement in an instant, and he was immersed in dancing. In a few years, he would be the main member of the scrum. And there are people watching the scene from the 2nd floor of the houses. The change and the richness of the expression of the people in this time and place was beyond description.
The resistance of the young people was repeated often and often, but they seemed to give up at last when they reached the edge of the street. The dancers and the spectators followed the parade of "Obon" which proceeded the head and kept marching to the perch.

The time was already 7:00 AM.
Soon it is time of the first bus.
We, who were at the limit in the means of time constraints and physical condition, saw the parade off at the edge of the street, and went back to the street where the silence returned.

People who head for the perch

The street where the silence returned
"Aki uta (The autumn song)" wraps up the Obon
After this, the parade climbs up a hill at the back of a temple and sets out the Kiriko Lanterns in front of the grave. However, we could not see this scene after all. With everybody watching, a mountain ascetic repeated the mantra, drew a sword suddenly, and cut down the lanterns. After this, they burned the lanterns, shot the gun to send the spirits off, and ended the event of Obon.
What is interesting is that, everyone must not look back after the event ends and must go back in a hurry as if to run away. They say that if you look back, the spirits that you have just sent off will follow you lingeringly. This shows the spiritual culture of the tradition of "Tamaokuri (Sending the spirits off)"
And in the way back, everyone hums the "Aki uta".
Akiga kitasode shikasae nakuni
Nazeka momijiga irozukanu

They say that the autumn has come, and even the deer sing,
but somehow the maple leaves don't turn red yet

(From the "Aki uta" of Niino Bon Dancing)
Aki uta tells the spirits that the Obon has gone, and also confirm to those alive that the delightful Obon holidays are over. In this sense, it's ambience is clearly different from that of Bon Dancing Songs.
It is said that these Aki utas remain only in few regions including the outskirts of the Shiiba Village in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu.
Farewell, Tenryu River!
The bus on our way back reached Nukuta Station.
The final day was a fair day, and we felt great although we had a lack of sleep.
We climbed up on a hill which was in the back of the station during the time we waited for the train to come. The beautiful clear stream of Tenryu River flowed swiftly far away below our eyes. When we turned our eyes to the river bank in the opposite side, montain villages dotted around the area where it was a little bit higher in altitude. In San-en-shin Region, there are many mountain villages which is isolated by the severe geographical features that was created by the Tenryu River. This fact is one of the reasons why there remains valuable traditional culture in this area.

The stream of Tenryu River that flows in the far distance
I took a look at Tenryu River from the train of Iida Line. When I recalled the 3 days of Tetsuya Dancing (All night dancing), each of them were impressive, and the experience in Niino was a surprise.

There are many things that are unknown in Bon Dancing and Japanese Culture that remains to be discovered. We would like to visit other Bon Dancings next year, hoping to have new surprise and sensation. The Bon Dancing Season of the year 2000 ended for us, the reporters thinking about things like that.

(The end)
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