Iwate: Tiger dance festival to celebrate Year of Tiger Share

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People perform the Toramai tiger dance to welcome passengers on the SL Ginga train at JR Kamaishi Station in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on Dec. 4.

KAMAISHI, Iwate — When the SL Ginga train arrived from Hanamaki at a platform at JR Kamaishi Station on Dec. 4, a tiger dance preservation group from Kamaishi called Tadakoe Toramai performed the “jumping tiger,” which depicts a wounded tiger running wild. Passengers stopped to watch the dance and take pictures after being greeted with such a flashy welcome.

The toramai tiger dance, a type of shishimai lion dance, has been handed down as traditional culture in the city and towns of Kamaishi, Otsuchi and Yamada along the Sanriku coast.

There have been fewer opportunities over the past two years to perform tiger dances due to the pandemic, so every Saturday since October, various groups in the city have performed on a rotating basis.

“This is the Year of the Tiger, so we hope to have more opportunities to perform,” said Itaru Kitayama of Tadakoe Toramai.

Toramai is said to have originated in the Heian period (794-1192), when warlords had their warriors dance in tiger costumes to inspire their subordinates. Since 2010, the city has held the national toramai festival once a year as a venue for training people and demonstrating the art. Last year, the festival was held in the form of showing videos of past performances to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This year’s festival will be held on Feb. 6, and for the first time in two years, all the groups will come together.

“This is the 12th time we’ve held this event, which started the last time it was the Year of the Tiger,” said Kazunobu Sasaki, deputy secretary general of the Kamaishi Tourism & Products Association, which is hosting the event. “We hope it will be a grand event.”