Kaminashi - Gokayama
Village of Kokiriko

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Kokiriko Matsuri, Kaminashi  (こきりこ祭り、上梨)

Kokiriko and mugiyabushi dances are unique to the gassho-zukuri villages. Originally kokiriko was a traditional field dance honouring the gods after a good harvest (dengaku-odori). In kokiriko the dancer holds binsasara (binzasara), which is an instrument consisting of 108 wooden plates linked by a cotton cord. In Buddhism 108 is the number of evil passions (bonnou). These desires disturb wisdom, cause disarrangement, and annoy the mind and body. The dancer swings binsasara horizontally hitting every plate at a same time by moving them in the manner of a wave. Binsasara makes a pleasant rolling sound.

Another kind of sasara instrument is bouzasara. It is a wooden stick and bamboo brush. The stick is cut off many lines. The musician slides the bamboo brush on these lines to play a crispy sound.

The mugiya melody (mugiyabushi) is based on the sadness and courage of fugitives of the vanquished Heike warrior clan. In the gassho-zukuri villages the Heike clan sought refuge after they had been defeated in the battle of Kurikara against the Genji clan. The Heike people threw down their swords and took up the hoe and sickle to live out their lives as farmers. They composed the mugiyabushi tune while working in fields of wheat (mugi).

After the Kokiriko matsuri I went back to Ainokura by taxi. The driver was a man who sang on the stage just an hour ago. On the way back to minshuku he kept on singing ballads of kokiriko and mugiyabushi to entertain me exclusively.