Festivals reflecting Nature Worship in Medieval Community still remain in farming and mountain villages in Japan. "Shimotsuki Matsuri Festival" is such an old one, which has been held in Kamimura village of Tohyama area in the south of Nagano prefecture since the beginning of 13th century. (The origin started over 10 centuries ago and "Yutate Kagura" has been performed formally since AC 1212.)
The residents of Kamimura village perform "Yutate Kagura" with Juzu (prayer beads of Buddhism) to worship "the God of Mountain" who controls hunting, forestry and slash-and-burn firming in a mountain slopes, and it is older than "the God of Rice Field" in a paddy field cultivation area. Kamimura village has only about 1,000 population now, public transportation was poor until quite recently and there has been almost no flat ground for a paddy field cultivation. That's why the residents have kept on worshipping "the God of Mountain". Furthermore, according to a village legend, they worship the Tohyama family as their lord together not to be cursed, because the residents rose in revolt and killed the Tohyama family at the beginning of the Edo era.
They say that the root of "Yutate Kagura" is from China and India, and probably, Shinto ritual and Kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrines) of "Yutate" at the Imperial Court in those days, which were taken into "the God of Mountain" festivals. Since "Shimotsuki Matsuri Festival" reflects these ritual exactly, you can see both Shintoism and Buddhism.
God of Mountain" festivals used to be performed under the divine
big tree outside originally, but "Shimotsuki Matsuri Festival"
has been performed around two special stoves remade every year inside
of shrine since AC1502.
Note: explanation of last scene - This is called "Asobi Nusa" which is like a Lucky-Game. Village people throw the Nusa (a prayer's sacred wooden stick like a Christian cross) up into the upper square shaped decoration like a chandelier where the Gods was stayed over the stoves during Yutate Kagura performance. If the Nusa hang on the bar of the decoration, it defines LUCK. If not, they again through them up to try to get their LUCK!
no Mai (Dance of Ornamented Sash)
no Mai (Dance of Fan)
(A Purification Ceremony with Water)
no Mai (Dance of Mr. and Mrs. Kandayuu)
no Mai (Dance of Eight Shrines)
no Mai (Dance of Four Gods)
no Mai (Dance of Tenpaku)
Explanation by Monji Kunio
Translated by ichico / February 1, 1997