Zan Yamashita – Choreographer

Visit to Sumita Town Festival and Rikuzentakata, Iwate 1st-5th May 2016

On the way to Sumita from Ichinoseki Station, a multipurpose hall I dropped in was built with a contribution by Singapore nation. Contrary to the outside scenery there is a lot of vacant land, the multipurpose hall is alive with community people who takes a kind of cultural activities. A lady of them gives me a camera and requests to take a picture of their community members.
Sioned lives in a deep forest, which is like that I wonder if she doesn’t feel lonely. I met Sioned in Tokyo last year, and then I was invited to be involved her project. It makes me so glad because I made a piece with research about Bali island last year, I just have been into a traditional folk culture in the world. And also after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I haven’t had the chance to visit Tohoku area. This is proper timing, I thought, because of the annual festival would be held in Sumita of Iwate prefecture in this May, the Shishi-Odori group which Sioned takes part in would perform there. So I came here from my living Kyoto.

Next morning, Reina who works with Sioned and Sioned and me went for a walk to a shrine located on the hill of the village. There are beautiful upright trees, that is just what one would expect of a historical forestry village. Someone my friend said before, from the north region to the south region in Japan, any art work sculptures gradually become winding, which means south artists make curving line and north artists make straight line at their works, it might be too much roughly idea, but I remember that story while walking. Sioned seems to communicate normally with local people even though I cannot understand their dialect. Evening of the day to see Shishi-Odori rehearsal, dynamic movements amazed me.

The third day, it is the day before the festival, several kind of dance groups have been showing their dance at the entrance of a nursing home for recognition to elderly people. Shishi-Odori dance group is one of them. Their large-scale clothes grab my attention. Although I felt it was small movement compared to yesterday rehearsal without clothes, but accurate dance in group was fantastic. However some dancers have been talking and reflecting on formation collapsed in the performance after that. Afternoon, we met Sugawara-san who supports Sioned, and also Sioned helps Sugawara-san work in Rikuzentakata, I was suffocated by smoke which Sugawara-san made by bonfire in halfway up the mountain where is the land she is reclaiming. After that, we went to hot spring with an ocean view, then back to join again Sugawara-san, drink together, her story what happened from the day of Tsunami to the present circumstances touched me to the quick.

The day of the festival was hard raining in the morning. I accepted the festival would not be held today. When I came to a meeting place for preparing Shishi-Odori, village people were gathering and eating Bento with happy atmosphere somehow. While I appreciate to have Bento as well, I wonder how we are going to do today. One of village people said no memory the festival had been canceled ever. Just then, surprisingly it was getting a blue sky. The parade of festival started just past noon. I have never seen the festival like this. No tourist, local people attract local people, it is moved by respect for native hometown. For me, it was precious experience to watch a lot of traditional folk dance.

At the evening, the party to celebrate the successful completion of the festival was held in a meeting place where we had been having Bento this morning. I listen carefully to Tohoku dialect, which is spoken by each. A lucky thing was that I could hear from a senior who moved to here from other area in the past for a man adopted as the husband for a daughter, he found and dig up Shishi-Odori which had been out of use at that time and then carried on untill now. I thought when I had been staying in Bali as well, carrying on traditional folk culture to future generations always needs people from outside. However it might be a superficial way of thinking as I drunk with many Sake in the party.

The day of the return, it was different from the road I came through a mountain on the day of arrival, the bus ran along the coast to Ichinoseki Station, so I saw the trace of Tsunami damage with my own eyes first time.

From Tokyo to Kyoto by Shinkansen, Mt. Fuji total picture unusual came into view.