Sep 28, 2010

Authentic Story of Bear Hunters

"Yamagami-sama.." is a story inspired by folklores in Akita. It is not about a samurai or a shogun— but the farmers and hunters that are more ordinary and common. Their stories are less represented in media and may not appear as elaborated, but our folklore culture has a rich tradition of art and music cultivated in the farmer’s life.

Folklore culture is what Warabi-za proudly represents in their performances. They have 7 performing groups travelling all over Japan and overseas at more than 1,200 stages in a year. (Details in English

Warabi-za even owns a folk art research center with a rare collection of documents and recorded materials, which is also dedicated in an effort to make the dramas more authentic to the cultural background. No wonder the company has been awarded repeatedly by the national and prefectural governments.

Minzoku Geijutsu Kenkyu-sho (民族芸術研究所)

You might be concerned about the language. Yes, Warabi-za plays are all in Japanese. But consider, their performance is musical and often in Akita dialect, so that even native Japanese speakers might not understand every word. The performance group travel overseas and perform and still receives great reviews. There is a reason!

Particularly in “Yamagami-sama..,” many terms are unfamiliar to even native Akita people-- Like the word, “Matagi” that refers to professional bear hunters who worshiped the deity of mountain and lived by the respective code: "Follow the rules of life cycle, transmigration of souls, and harmony in the Great Nature."

Another word you will repeatedly hear is, Itazu, which means "a bear." The strict code of Matagi had prohibited using common "town" terminology as opposed to the "mountain". Itazu is said to derive from Itachi, a mustlid, suggesting that such beast deserves as little fear as a tiny animal. Also, the code prohibited women from entering the mountain, because the deity is female and extremely jealous. That is why Yanosuke insists that “the mountain is no such place for a battle over a woman.”

Merchandises of the play is available! Find your own matagi and itazu goods...

Knowing the background culture would help you enjoy Warabi-za plays. Perhaps, it could be the very inspiration to learn more about the rural culture!!

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