We’re done cutting and drying the rushes on the hills
Tomorrow we’ll cut the paddy rice
Autumn’s done there on the paddy berms
That one’s got her man five lamps burn
Already the sun’s going down
Head for home with your load of fodder!
Roofs thatched with rush rush are the walls
Just as in the old days crossed boards deck ridge-pole ends
Who will see me they wondered as they bloomed
In valley after valley azaleas grow from boulders
The teeming rains the teeming mists
Morning grass this morning I dare not cut
Little bamboo grass in your mountain keep
bound up in wisteria vines I’ll stay here and sleep
workers’ song passed down in the mountainous Takachiho region of northwestern
The Ama no Iwato Shrine, in Takachiho, derives its name from a
myth recorded in the early chronicle Kojiki
(712) in which the solar deity Amaterasu Ōmikami takes her glorious light
from the world and shuts herself up in the cavern Ama no Iwato (Rock Door of
the Heavens). Ama no Iwato is the name
both of the Shrine and of one of thirty-three yokagura—an all-night performance in mask of a cycle of dramas
accompanied by song and dance that is put on some fifteen or twenty times each
year during the winter months.
year the Tourism Office of the Takachiho Chamber of Commerce posts a schedule
listing the yado, or “inns,” which under shrine sponsorship take
turns mounting the kagura
performances. Originally put on in the
homes of villagers and at shrines, they are now staged in community social
halls as well. The beginning of the kagura season coincides with the end of
the rice harvest in late November and continues until early February, one
aspect of yokagura performance being to express gratitude for bountiful
crops of the five food grains and supplication for bumper harvests in the new
year. The first kagura of each
cycle is performed at the sponsoring shrine at two in the afternoon. The presiding deity then passes in state to
the venue where a dance of felicitation is performed in its honor. The cycle of thirty-three performances
carries on through the night until dawn.
particular renown, among the thirty-three acts in the cycle mounted under the
aegis of Ama no Iwako Shrine, is the rollickingly lubricious song and dance
performed by the god Tajikarame no Mikoto and the goddess Ama no Uzume no
Mikoto who, with the aid of a long white radish and a colander, evoke riotous
laughter from the assembly of gods and goddesses so luring Amaterasu from her
Kagura are accompanied by the songs (seri uta) of a group of young men who
urge the dancers on to a pitch of excitement.
A verse of one of their songs goes: “Koyosa yokagura nya
serototekitaga sainā sera nyasokonoke washigaseru nonnokosai sai
yoisassa tokoigasassa yoisassa.
(“You said you wanted us to sero your Yokagura tonight. We said we would and here we are so,
nonnokosai sai yoisassa tokoigasassa yoisassa.”)
At each of the Kagura inns the
audience, the young men who sing, and the dancers form an integral dramatic
the townships Gokase and Hinokage, which neighbor Takachiho, night kagura
troupes sponsored by local shrines mount variant cycles of yokagura.
the Shiromi Shrine in Saito City night kagura are performed by villagers
on the 14th and 15th of December. It is the practice here for the heads of
wild boar killed by village hunters that year to be offered up to the Kagura
gods. Act 32 of the local kagura,
Ino-togiri, is informed by a rich vein of humor unique to this region.
went to a haiku gathering there in December 1994 and saw twelve boar heads
lined up on the altar. The next day we
feasted on wild-boar stew.
Dance the kagura
twelve skulls taken from boars
offered on the altar
A boar’s head is carried in
All of a sudden
the face of a troll appears,
grove of giant bamboo
Coins wrapped in paper
they throw at the Udo Daemon—
in the tatami parlor
your nose is too long
Tateo Fukutomi is a member of the haiku contributions jury for the
Miyazaki Edition of the Mainichi Daily News. He is also a lecturer on haiku
the NHK Culture Center, a member of the Modern Haiku Association, and
the Japanese Agricultural Exchange Council.Tateo Fukutomi was born in
Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan in 1936.
He began to compose haiku
in 1963, studying under Tohta Kaneko.
He was a farm trainee
in California, USA, for one year (1965-1966). He studied American Culture
under Taro Yashima (illustrator of children's
in Los Angeles at that time.
Currently he is a
lecturer on haiku at NHK Miyazaki Culture Center. He is a member of the Modern
Publications include collections
of original haiku: Straw Hat (1979), Kappa, River Sprite (1989), The
Sound of Waves (1997), Straw Hat: English edition
(2000), as well as the essays: Trial and Error in a Foreign Land (1974),
and Kappa's Notebook (1985).
David P. Dutcher
Translator, editor of dictionaries. Born in 1944 in New York, USA. Received
B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Hawaii. Studied for a doctoral
degree in classical Japanese literature at Harvard University. He is an editor
of several English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries, including
The Kenkyusha Dictionary of English Collocations, and has done translations
from both classical and modern Japanese. His English version of the CD-ROM
GADGET was widely acclaimed in the U.S. He has lived some thirty years in
Japan since first arriving in 1966.