The origin of the Hachigatsu-odori (August Dance) is unknown, but theories include celebrations for rice paddy reclamations, celebrations for the completion of irrigation channels, harvest festivals, memorials for the dead, and prayers for peace. The dance is said to have been offered to the gods as thanks in the spring of 1671, when the Koyama irrigation channel was completed, paddies capable of producing 2,000 koku (360,000 liters) of rice were developed, and a monument to the new channel was erected. At its core, this dance is a Shinto ritual that can be thought of as a prayer and thanks to divine spirits and ancestors. On the day of the festival, the Kane-odori (Gong Dance) is performed before the village’s water god, followed by a dance at the irrigation channel. In the evening, the Hachigatsu-odori is performed by the village’s yagura (bandstand tower). From the yagura, a singer sings to the accompaniment of a melancholy-inducing tune played with shamisen (three-stringed Japanese lutes), kokyu (Japanese fiddles), and taiko drums. When the singing begins, the ondo (dance leader) leads a circle of people in a dance. In the past, the dancers were typically 15−30 years old. However, since the population of young adults has recently dwindled, elementary school students, junior high school students, and senior citizens also now participate as dancers. Male dancers’ costumes consist of a yukata (casual kimono), a black haori (kimono jacket) decorated with a family crest, and a torioigasa (folded traditional hat) and zori (traditional sandals made of soft rush). Female dancers’ costumes consist of a yukata with a black obi (young girls in the Hami and Honmachi areas have elegant costumes). Middle-aged women’s costumes also include a black okoso-zukin (combination hood and veil); a white hachimaki (cloth headband); and, sometimes, slips of gold and silver leaf on both sides of their face.
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