Iriya Uchibayashi Musical Performance

"Pass down 'Power' to the next generation."

“Pass down ‘Power’ to the next generation.”

The mountainous rice terraces are colored in golden hues. Autumn in Iriya is picturesque with a landscape of contrasting golden terraces and lush green hills. At night you can hear the sounds of whistles and drums in the Iriya district.

They are the sounds of people practicing for the uchibayashi performance for the Hachiman Shrine Festival in Iriya that is held on the third Sunday in September.

For over 250 years, the people of Iriya have continued to hold a ceremony to transfer a sacred object from the Hachiman Shrine and the uchibayashi performance for the shrine festival.

The festival and uchibayashi performance in Iriya have been designated as “Important Intangible Folk-cultural Property” by Miyagi Prefecture for their value as a folk tradition and as a folk performing art.

The high cost and dedication necessary for the uchibayashi performance put the event in danger of being cancelled numerous times during and after World War II and in the period of high economic growth in Japan. However, people worked together at every crisis and with their combined effort, were able to hand down this festival to succeeding generations. Each year, one of four koh associations takes turn being in charge of the ceremony for transferral of the sacred object and uchibayashi.

The association in charge begins preparations one year in advance. Two weeks before the festival, performers start to practice on the big drums, small drums, and whistles for the uchibayashi performance and the lion dance, and children practice for the dance to comfort the lion.

They decorate a stall with a foo dog and artificial flowers of peony and cherry blossoms, and flower garlands, which are called “baren.” Each flower petal is created by cutting them out of paper and dyeing them one by one. They enthusiastically make colorful clothes for children. In addition, the townspeople must collect congratulatory gifts of money and prepare homemade food for the day of the festival. While keeping in mind the necessity to change with the times, the people of Iriya have continued to maintain this valuable tradition by sharing the duties for holding this event. The ability to successfully pass down this treasure to the next generation is part of their tremendous underlying strength.

Period: September

Address: Iriya District

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