As Sasara Dance is practiced in each neighborhood around Kakunodate Town over the o-bon week, the individual groups follows its own customary schedule and location. So, when is the best time to catch a glimpse of the different styles altogether?
On August 15, there is special event to watch 3 different groups! During the day, the Sasara dance can be seen at two locations: Shiraiwa Unganji Temple and Kakunodate Kabazaiku Denshokan (Woodcraft Museum). After dark, the performance can be seen at other locations like JR Kakunodate Station and Tatemachi Pocket Park.
Day Performance at Shiraiwa Unganji Temple:
Shiraiwa Unganji Temple （雲巖寺） is one of the oldest temples in Kakunodate, whose establishment dates back to 1450. At this historic place, two groups, Shiraiwa and Donokuchi Sasara, perform for the tourists and local people.
Shiraiwa Unganji Temple （白岩雲巖寺）
Comparing Donokuchi （堂野口）and Shiraiwa （白岩）Sasara:
Sasara （ささら）is commonly consisted of three lions and flute players, singers, along with 1 or more dancers who play assisting roles.
Donokuchi Sasara’s lions are one red male, one black male, and another black female lion. The most characteristic member would be “Karasu（カラス）,” a comedy dancer with a red “blackbird” mask and covering the head with red towel, who dances with a Sasara, a wooden instrument that the dance is named after.
Donokuchi Sasara （堂野口ささら）
The Donokuchi Sasara comes from a community near Shiraiwa. They perform at this Unganji Temple only on this day, August 14. On the other hand, for Shiraiwa group, the Unganji Temple is the most familiar one and it is where they hold a customary performance on August 13 as well.
The Shiraiwa Sasara is also consisted of three lions (one black male, one red male, and a green child), Zazzaka (with a hyottoko mask), flute players, and singers.
Each performance lasts about 30 minutes. The event is scheduled so that it is popular attraction for tourists, local people and photographers.
Zazzaka （ザッザカ） entertaining the crowd at Shiraiwa Unganji Temple.
The green lion symbolizes a child lion.
The Shiraiwa Sasara Performance at Local House:
After the performance, the Shiraiwa group stops at a local house and blesses the family.
Shiraiwa Sasara stops at a local family's house.
The Night Performance at Tatemachi Pocket Park:
Three Sasara groups from Kakunodate Town, Shiraiwa, Donokuchi, and Hirokunai, show their dance in front of audience at night event near JR Kakunodate Station. It is a good opportunity for you to different groups at the same time and also enjoy joining in a dance circle (bon-odori) with the local people.
If you still haven’t seen Hirokunai Sasara by this point, that is more to the reason why you should come to this night event! Here is a quick video to show you the energetic performance of Hirokunai group!
Also, here is another video to show you the ending with Zazzaka (ザッザカ) and Ohsei（オーセイ）. Ohsei is a man with a long-faced mask who serves as an usher to lead the Sasara while warding off the evil spirits with his giant fan. His presence is another unique characteristic of Hirokunai Sasara.
Don't miss your chance to see this 400 years-old tradition of Sasara Dance! It is held in Kakunodate Area from around August 7 to 20. For more information on the detailed location and schedule, please inquire Kakunodate-machi Tourist Association (TEL 0187-54-2700).