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Tingsha becomes kane : Why Buddhist instrument is in Shintō dance

This article is only for my notice. I'm afraid that this article is totally for personal remark. But I've never read that someone relate kane cymbale to tingsha, here, I share my small remark with you.


When the kagura is explained, it is always said that it is Shintō dance. And it is misreading.

The contemporary notion of Shintō is created after modern period. It would be wrong to categorise what it was already before (kagura) as Shintō.

When I first started to read about kagura, it was really confusing that Sugisawa Hiyama had been practiced and performed by practitioners of shugendō (called as shugenja or yamabushi). Shugen-dō is precisely neither Shintō, nor Buddhism. But when you read academic explanation, you can easily find the description of kagura as Shintō music. See, for exemple, Globe.

As a practitioner of popular religious customs, I believed I understand very well about the difference between academic explanation and local practice. However, it strongly reminds in my mind that kagura is Shintō festival. I often explain in this way (because it is easier to understand for someone who have no idea about Japanese religious tradition.)

Keeping this in your mind, please observe Sugisawa Hiyama's instrumental composition; flute, drum and cymbale called kane. I add that this is frequent for kagura in North Japan.

You have transverse bambou flute, shinobue. This fabrication is characteristic but the flute it-self is essential for popular music. (Bambou is all around, you can make it by yourself.)

Taiko drum is no doubt important.

But cymbale is foreign as "Shintō" image for me. Also, when it comes to shugenja, their most famous sonic item is horagai, conch shell. The shakujō known as Buddhist monk item, is also typical tool for yamabushi. It is not considered as musical instrument, but it makes sounds little similar to cymbale (shakujō is long stick in which metallic rings are attached). Why not them?

I noticed that cymbale is rather Buddhist origin instrument. Shugendō is spiritualism around volcan (mountain), and as my understanding, it is so much related to the Buddhist Vajrayana. Now I understand better why you use cymbal in kagura.

If you imagine tingsha of Tibet, it must be clearer. Actually kane cymbale is tingsha in Japanese kagura! Now I resolve my small question for almost 20 years...!

(This photo is not taken by me. I just saved the first one I found via google search).

It was practitioners of shugendō (called as shugenja in Japanese) who performed Hiyama dance for villagers until mid 19th century. Performing dance is one of their way of earning living expense. The shrine where Hiyama is performed was one of stopping points for shugenja who are nomad priests.

Once you notice that kane cymbale is tingsha, they look almost same. Following, you have an image of kane used for Take kagura (of Hayachine kagura school).

You take the body of kane to make sounds, the sound is much more muffled than tingsha.

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