top of page
  • Akiko

Holy chickens - Sugisawa Hiyama

I've been working for Sugisawa Hiyama, one of Bangaku (kagura) in Yamagata, North-West Japan. Its most mysterious piece among its repertory is Tori mai, bird dance. It is performed by two male dancers in female costume and bird-like ornament on their heads. First, this piece is categorised as ritual characteristic piece. The dancers wears exactly same way as another ritual piece, named Mikagura, Holy kagura. So normally public cannot distinguish which piece they are watching without indication or without paying attention to the lyric (they sings like "tori rya rya rya ...".

It is said that this dance piece represents the last scene of Ama no Iwato myth in Kojiki. When sun goddess Amaterasu o mikami appeared from Ama no Iwato cave, holy chiken clucked to announce to the world that the light returned. (It it still doubtful if this piece is really created according to this myth. No research were found. It is not scientifically confirmed.) This must be usual way of valorisation.

Tori mai dance is consisted by two parts: the first slow part in which two dancers face to another and dance exactly same choreography. The second fast part in which dancers jump several times while squatting to the rythme. (It is kind of Jo - (ha) - kyu structure. If Suzu no dan part of Sanbaso (Kyogen theatre) is interpreted as transe imitation, the second part of Torimai dance can be interpreted as transe status by dancers' jump.

The chicken clucking occupies very important place in Shinto ritual. The first ritual of the day of Sengu at Ise Jingu, the first ritualised text represents chicken clucks. It is said as Keimei Sansei 鶏鳴三声 (Three times chicken clucking). The officiant recites the text "kakeko" three times. It is onomatopoeia of chicken clucking after Amaterasu return. You can hear with this link (truck no. 11).

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page