Niino area is situated at the southernmost of Nagano prefecture.
“Niino Bon Festival dance” is held in this area during the season of Bon, in which people enjoy dancing for the night away.
People dance for three nights away from around 9:00 p.m. till dawn every night, from August 14 to 16 every year. ‘Kami-okuri’, a sending off ceremony for the god, is also held on the final day.
It is said that the Niino Bon Festival dance originated in 1529, about 500 years ago, and it has been designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Kunio Yanagida, a notable folklorist in the period from Meiji to Showa also admired this Bon Festival dance and even gave some instructions as well.
“Gujyo-odori”, held in Gujyo-city in Gifu prefecture is well known as a Tetsuya-odori（dancing for the night away）, meanwhile what makes Niino Bon Festival dance unique is that people dance only to the song sang by a leading singer without any instruments like drums, flutes or shamisen.
In Niino Bon Festival dance, people perform not only ‘Te-odori（many people dance together in a same gesture）’, but also dance using Japanese fans. Depending on the dance, people change the direction of moving or the ways to hold fans.
Niino Bon Festival dance reaches its peak on the final day, August 16, that is at daybreak of August 17.
At daybreak of August 17, people loose ‘Kiriko-toro（Bon lanterns）’ from a Yagura-tower, which was placed in the center of the circle (People do Bon dance in a circle). Then they head to Zuiko-in temple holding ‘Kiriko-toro’, where ‘Kami-okuri’, a sending off ceremony for the god, is held.
Seeing the procession of ‘Kiriko-toro（Bon lanterns）’ passes in front of them, the Bon dancers understand that the season of Bon of the year ends and the autumn is close by.
There is a strict rule that once the season of Bon came to the end, people never perform Bon dance in the rest of year.
It is time when the spirits of ancestors go back to where they were.
Feeling missing the spirits of ancestors, dancers make a lot of small circles around heads of the procession and perform a dance, named “Noto” in order to slow the procession to reach Zuiko-in temple.
“Noto” dance is allowed to perform only this time of ‘Kami-okuri’ ceremony.
The performance of dancers becomes fast and furious so to slow the procession.
People in the procession try to stop the ‘Noto’ dance and the both groups hustle against one another.
It is the moment when Niino Bon Festival dance gets its peak.
All the dancers are pushed aside and then the procession finally gets to the temple. Now, ‘Kami-okuri’, a sending off ceremony for the god, is to start.
People in the procession pile the ‘Kiriko-toro（Bon lanterns）’ up to burn. Then an ascetic recites a charm and then let out ‘Kuji’ (spell or charm of Esoteric Buddhism) performing ‘Michi-giri (cut off the path where evils to enter)’ gesture. Following the performance of the ascetic, people set fire to the pile of lanterns and burn them. It puts the end to the ceremony.
All people leave the temple citing autumn poetry without looking behind.
They can never look behind. It’s forbidden.
A Bon Festival dance which has been held in Niino area that is surrounded by mountains of Minami-shinshu.
Everyone, regardless of age or gender, is welcome to join.
Come and enjoy dancing with locals wearing your favorite yukata (cotton kimono) and geta(wooden crog). Make sure carrying a Japanese fan at your waist as well!