Crystallization of the Land

When mentioning folk performing arts unique to Hokkaido, we may recall the ancient dances performed by the Ainu people. However, in this installment, we will take a look at the folk performing arts introduced by Japanese people from their home villages before coming to Hokkaido, as well as the folk performing arts that were born in different regions of Hokkaido after immigrating here.

Folk performing arts have been passed down for generation all over Japan, but many of them are not seen on a regular basis, nor do they involve the participation of all the people in a community or town.
However, these folk performing arts serve as evidence of the people who lived there, and can be considered a crystallization of the land.
In Hokkaido, there are many folk performing arts that have their origins in regions outside of Hokkaido. Among them, many are shishimai lion dances brought from Toyama Prefecture. We can only imagine the feelings of nostalgia, hope for tomorrow, and uncertainties of the people who came to Hokkaido from somewhere else in Japan and first performed and witnessed these dances. Moreover, the sentiments and actions of the people who once lived here, which have been seamlessly passed down from generation to generation, have become the cornerstone of the local customs and culture.

Meanwhile, many localities are experiencing issues in passing down these traditions to the next generation. In addition to the lack of people to carry on the traditions, the suspension and cancellation of rituals and festivals due to COVID-19 has had a major impact. There is a limit to what can be passed down through individual efforts alone. It may also be important for local governments to provide various forms of support, and for people to become more aware of the origins and history of their region.

Words by Ida Yukitaka
Translation by Xene Inc.