See Japan`s Oldest Dance Form At Kowakamai Festival in Fukuoka

There are many dance forms from various prefectures in Japan. Some of those dance forms have been continuing from hundreds of years without being changed or lost. Fukuoka prefecture celebrates one such age old dance festival namely the 'Kowakamai Matsuri' which one needs to know about. This is a 700 year old dance festival which makes it the oldest dance form in Japan according to the Government. 


The 'Kowakamai' is the ancestor of modern Japanese dance forms such as Noh and Kabuki. It started off 700 years ago and was very popular during the Muromachi period (1336 - 1573). Its founder was said to be Momonoi Tadanobu of Echizen (Fukui Prefecture) whose childhood name was 'Kowakamaru'. One of the great daimyos of the region namely Oda Nobunaga who was the man behind many monuments in Fukui domain himself performed this dance and popularized it even more. After the Meiji Restoration, it started to decline all across Japan but however kept alive as Intangible Cultural Asset designation by the government. On January 20 every year, it is performed in dedication to gods all across Fukuoka prefecture especially in the Oe Tenman Shrine grounds.
Oe Tenman Shrine
via Trip Advisor


Geisha Performance
via Wikipedia

Oe Tenman Shrine is situated in Southern Fukuoka prefecture in the village of Miyama. It can be reached by train within 5 minutes from JR Setaka station on the Kagoshima main line. As Kowakamai is the ancestor of Noh and Kabuki, one can see elements of both during the performance. The dance is also the predecessor of all 'bugaku' style dances in Japan.  Bugaku is a traditional Japanese court dance which involves depicting legendary battles and praises to kings and gods. The difference between Noh, Bugaku and Kabuki is that: Noh and Bugaku were exclusive to noble people and Kabuki to the townspeople back in the day. Kowakamai is usually long, at least a few hours, with various acts involving fans and chants to praise gods. People are dressed up in beautiful costumes and perform song and dance and it attracts hundreds of foreigners too from all around the world. 

Tenman Shrine:

Kowakamai is overall an attractive folk festival and a must-see for those who would like to see the oldest dance form of Japan. 

Yashwanth Kumar Rasani