Kochonomai – Kitazawa Hachimangu Matsuri
At last year’s Kitazawa Hachimangu Matsuri (festival) in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward I saw one of the most ancient forms of ritual court dances, the Kochonomai, or butterfly dance. It probably arrived to Japan from Korea in the 8th century and has been completely unaltered ever since. The dance is performed by four or eight maidens (which in modern days usually means children) with colorful costumes performing a ritual dance symbolizing the seasons. In their hands they hold branches of the Yamabuki (Kerria japonica), a rose relative that is native to Japan, Korea and China.
Japan has somehow managed to preserve many of their earliest rituals and ceremonies and for the average person, over a millennium removed, they can be difficult to understand. I will have to study this more, but in the meantime, we can just enjoy the colorful dresses and the wonderful tradition of the dances and music!