New Year – the Lion Dance (Shishi-Mai)
 

New Year – the Lion Dance (Shishi-Mai)


The lion dance or shishi-mai was introduced to Japan from the Asian mainland around the 8th c. and was adopted as part of the courtly dance of bugaku. Later, around the14th c., it entered the popular canon of sarugaku and dengaku (harvest ceremony) dances, the forms in which it is known today. Lion dances have various ritual or symbolic functions, including the display of force to ward off evil, prayers for the protection of agriculture or for rain, harvest celebrations, and memorial services for wild animals. They can be broadly divided into two-man and one-man varieties. The one-man variety can be seen most often in eastern Japan. Shishi-mai have also been included in the classic performing art of no, as well as in kabuki, where such dances make up a group of plays known as shakkyomono.