Furyu-odori, ritual dances imbued with people’s hopes and prayers


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, 2021

Furyu-odori in Japan refers to various ritual folk dances, characterized by eye-catching costumes and lively dances and music. These local dances have been performed for centuries, primarily in rural areas. With life in these areas often affected by severe climate events, local communities created ritualistic performances to express their hopes for a tranquil life. The dances are performed for many reasons, including to pray for the end of plagues, the repose of the deceased, a good harvest or safety from disasters. Each element, from the costumes to the music, is believed to dispel evil spirits and misfortune and to strengthen good forces, such as local deities and ancestral spirits, that protect the communities. The dances vary from one region to the next but share commonalities. Knowledge and skills are transmitted formally and informally, through local governments and preservation organizations, in schools and within families and communities. The performance of Furyu-odori is an occasion for community members who have moved to urban areas to return home. For instance, former Uonuma City residents who live in Tokyo travel back home to take part in the dance. Some also perform Furyu-odori in Tokyo at annual gatherings of people from the same regions.