Shishi-Odori (Deer Dance) at The Mayor’s Thames Festival

Photo of Shishi-Odori (Deer Dance) at The Mayor’s Thames Festival

The Japan Foundation proudly invites a Shishi-Odori (Deer Dance) dance troupe to perform for the first time in the UK on the occasion of the forthcoming Mayor's Thames Festival, one of the biggest outdoor arts festivals in London. This year's Thames Festival is to be held as the final celebration of the London 2012 Olympic Games on the 8 and 9 September.

This year's festival features performances by the Oshu Kanatsu-Ryu Shishi-Odori Dance Troupe, one of the major Shishi-Odori dance styles. Shishi-Odori is a popular performing art handed down from generation to generation in the Tohoku region of Japan and is performed as rituals in different occasions. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Shishi-Odori has been performed on numerous occasions at disaster-hit areas to offer prayers for the victims, playing a key role in bringing the people of the region together.

Through their performances at Thameside venues, the Shishi-Odori dancers will show their dynamic and sophisticated performances while expressing wishes for the repose of those who lost their lives in last year's disaster and for the recovery of the affected areas. They will also be taking part in the Night Carnival on the last day of the festival.

Thames Festival
Dates: Saturday, 8 September & Sunday, 9 September 2012
Venue: Various around London South Bank
Presented by The Japan Foundation, supported by The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation

*Prior to the Thames Festival, the troupe will also perform outside London at museums in Oxford and Maidstone.

Oxford Performance
Date: Thursday, 6 September 2012, 13.00 - 13.45
Venue: The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, University of Oxford
Presented by The Japan Foundation
Maidstone Performance
Date: Friday, 7 September 2012, 13.00 - 13.45
Venue: Maidstone Museum, Kent
Presented by The Japan Foundation

Shishi-Odori (Deer Dance)

Photo of Shishi-Odori Shishi-Odori is a popular folk performing art in the Tohoku (northeast) region of Japan. Though varied in styles and forms, the main feature of the dance is the dancer’s mask called Shishi-Gashira (deer mask), representing an imaginary creature as a messenger of God. Two types of Shishi-Odori can be found in that region; in the first type, each dancer is also a musician at the same time holding a drum hung at the waist and carrying two long bamboo sticks called Sasara on their back. In the other type, dancers wear a wide drape and dance to music played by side musicians.

Both types of Shishi-Odori are performed as rituals in different occasions, such as a memorial service for ancestral spirits or in order to purify evil spirits, or sometimes in expression of gratitude for an abundant harvest. Although there are many different theories on the origin of Shishi-Odori, each shows a strong connection between people who lived in that region and the nature around them.

Kanatsu-Ryu Shishi-Odori (Kanatsu Style Deer Dance)

The Kanatsu-Ryu (Kanatsu Style) is said to have originated during the Edo Period (1603-1867), when the Shishi-Odori was passed on from Miyagi Prefecture to residents of the city of Esashi (now Oshu City), and to this day has been handed down through generations as a religious performing art.

Although numerous dance troupes have formed and disbanded over the years, the Kanatsu-Ryu has long maintained its dynamic and sophisticated performance and remains one of the leading Shishi-Odori styles. Kanatsu-Ryu troupes, beginning with Kanatsu-Ryu Yanagawa Shishi-Odori (Yanagawa Deer Dance Troupe), which is a designated intangible folk cultural asset of Iwate Prefecture, have presented their dance at various places in Japan, as well as overseas countries such as the United States, Russia and Bulgaria. The performers invited to the UK are comprised of members of the Yanagawa, Ide, Karuishi, Urahama and Matsuyama dance troupes which represent this tradition, deriving from Oshu and Ofunato cities in Iwate, and Osaki city in Miyagi.

[Contact Us]

Yoko Kitagawa
Europe, Middle East and Africa Section, Arts and Culture Department
The Japan Foundation
TEL: +81-3-5369-6063

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