Monday, January 12, 2015

Carpe Diem #647, Lion Dance (Shishimai)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are going on with our exploration of the classical kigo for the fifth season New Year and today we have Lion Dance (Shishimai) for prompt. This "Lion Dance" has come to Japan through China, but the Japanese have a great tradition in these "Lion Dances".

Japan has a long tradition of the lion dance and the dance is known as shishimai in Japanese. It is thought to have been imported from China during the Tang Dynasty, and became associated with celebration of Buddha's birthday. The oldest surviving lion mask, made of paulownia wood with an articulated lower jaw, is preserved in Japan. The dance is commonly performed during the New Year where the lion dancers may be accompanied by flute and drum musicians.
The lion dance has been completely absorbed into Japanese tradition, and the style of dancing and design of the lion differs by region. There are many different lion dances in Japan - it is believed that as many as 9,000 variations of the dance exist in the country. The lion dance is also used in religious Shinto festivals as part of a performing art form called kagura. There are two main groups of shishi kagura - the daikagura which is mainly acrobatic, and the yamabushi kagura.
The Japanese lion consists of a wooden, lacquered head called a shishi-gashira (lit. Lion Head), often with a characteristic body of green dyed cloth with white designs. It can be manipulated by a single person, or by two or more persons, one of whom manipulates the head. As with Chinese lions, the make of the head and designs on the body will differ from region to region, and even from school to school. The mask however may sometimes have horns appearing to be a deer (shika), and different Kanji characters also pronounced shishi can mean beast, deer or wild boar, for example as in shishi-odori (lit. Deer Dance). The dance may also sometimes feature tigers (tora) or qilin (kirin).

Credits: Lion Dance (Shishimai)
Great festival and a gorgeous dance I think, but how to write a haiku about this Lion Dance? Are there examples for this classical kigo? Yes ... I have found one ... a beauty I think by Kobayashi Issa:

kamashishi ga ago de harainu kado no matsu
the lion dancer
takes a purifying bite -
pine decorations at the gate

© Issa

kado-jishi ya shishi ga kuchi kara ume no hana
lion dancers visit --
from the lion's mouth
plum blossoms

© Issa

Well ... very nice haiku I would say, but to write one myself ... this time I haven't inspiration to write a haiku, maybe it will come to me later on.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until January 15th at noon (CET). I will publish our next episode, a new episode of our Haiku Writing Techniques, later on. For now ... have fun, be inspired and share your haiku with us all.

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