Umezawa Sasara at Kimpo Shrine
Sasara is a variation of shishimai, a Japanese traditional Lion Dance. The traditional band of Umezawa Sasara performed at the annual ceremony at Kimpo Shrine, in Tazawako Area.
The History of Two Sasara Styles: the Nambu and Mito
Semboku Region still has various forms of Sasara Dances — each in unique costumes, dances, and music. Umezawa Sasara (梅沢ささら） is a good example of Sasara, which is said to preserve its most primitive form influenced by the Nambu Clan in the present Iwate Prefecture.
There are schools of Sasara in general: the Mito and the Nambu styles. The former is said to have been brought by the Satake Clan when they were ordered to re-locate from Tokiwa to Dewa, the present Ibaraki to Akita Prefecture.
The Nambu Style, the latter, is said to have already existed when the Mito style was introduced here. Most Sasara in Tazawako area are said to have been brought from Shizukuishi, the western border town of the Nambu territory via Hosendai, a region in Tamagawa area, and finally spread to other Semboku region.
The Nambu Sasara is also said to be associated with Yamabushi style— “Yamabushi” meaning the Japanese mountain ascetic hermit who is in pursuit of the enlightenment through the nature.
Also, it is said that when the Satake Clan was forcibly transferred to Akita, the Sasara -- mimicking the moves of the Shinto guardians (lions) in order to ward off the evil spirits -- had led the procession so that the Clan could safely enter the unfamiliar territory.
The Manner of Lion Dance:
The group is commonly consisted of 5-6 people: three lions, flute players, and occasionally another person with a mask. They stroll around the town and visit every house, to show a performance and ward off the evil spirits to wish the household’s agricultural fertility, wish fulfillment, safety, and good health.
The flute player and the lions.
On this final day of Umezawa Sasara performance, the group danced at Kimpo Shrine for both the enshrined deity as well as the attendees at the Reitaisai (annual ritual ceremony).