Dengaku Folk Dance (田楽)

Dengaku is a traditional Japanese performance art. It is a combination of music and dance. It began in the middle of the Heian Period. There are various theories about its origins, including that it developed from a 'ta-asobi' ritual to pray for a good harvest before planting rice or that it was introduced from overseas, but there are still many uncertainties as to its origins.

In 1096, people in Kyoto became enthusiastic about Dengaku and the aristocracy arranged performances for the Emperor. This is referred to as the 1096 Dai-dengaku (in the 'Rakuyo Dengaku Ki' (Record of Rakuyo Dengaku) authored by OE no Masafusa). In the latter stage of the Heian Period Dengaku troupes were formed under the protection of temples and shrines. Priests who specialized in dancing Dengaku were called Dengaku Hoshi (Dengaku Priest). There was also a period when Dengaku was more popular than Sarugaku, another Japanese dance.

It is written in the 'Taiheiki' (The Record of the Great Peace) that Takatoki HOJO, a regent in the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), was addicted to Dengaku and the Shogun Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA in the Muromachi bakufu liked the performances of a dancer named Zoami. The popularity of Dengaku declined as Yamato Sarugaku (Japanese dance) boomed.

Local Performances
By the present day, Dengaku dances have become divided into Bin-zasara and Suri-sasara, depending on the type of percussion instrument used.

Dengaku dances include dances that are prayers for a good harvest, and dances that are prayers for driving away evil.

There are Dengaku dances featuring child dancers, including the Oji-jinja Shrine Dengaku dance, Shirahige-jinja Shrine Dengaku dance, Gohoden's Children's Dengaku/Furyu, Kotaki Chokurairo Dance, Dainichi-do Dance and more.

Designated Cultural Property
As of 2006, the following 24 performances are designated important intangible assets in the classification of Dengaku Folk Performances (Date of designation, Prefecture).

Akiu Rice Planting Dance (May 04, 1976, Miyagi Prefecture)
Itabashi Rice Paddy Performance (May 04, 1976, Tokyo)
Nishiure Dengaku Dance (May 04, 1976, Shizuoka Prefecture)
Fujimori Rice Paddy Performance (May 17, 1977)
Mutsuki shinji (Mutsuki Ceremony) (May 22, 1978, Fukui Prefecture)
Enburi Festival (February 03, 1979, Aomori Prefecture)
Yamaya Rice Planting Dance (January 21, 1981, Iwate Prefecture)
Hanazono Onda Dance (January 21, 1981, Wakayama Prefecture)
Isobe-no-omita Dance (March 29, 1990, Mie Prefecture)
Ishii-no-shichifukujin and Rice Planting Dance (December 26, 1995, Fukushima Prefecture)
Tawara-no-onda Ritual(December 27, 2000, Kyoto Prefecture)
Shiohara Daisenkuyo Rice Planting Dance (February 12, 2002, Hiroshima Prefecture)

Gohoden-no-Chigo Dengaku Furyu (May 04, 1976, Fukushima Prefecture)
Mizuumi Dengaku Dance and Noh Dance (May 04, 1976, Fukui Prefecture)
Nachi Dengaku Dance (May 04, 1976, Wakayama Prefecture)
Kira-gawa River Onta Festival (May 17, 1977, Kochi Prefecture)
Mikawa Dengaku Dance (May 22, 1978, Aichi Prefecture)
Sumiyoshi Rice Planting Dance (February 03, 1979, Osaka Prefecture)
Gero-no-ta Festival (January 21, 1981, Gifu Prefecture)
Suginohara-no-ondamai Dance (December 28, 1987, Wakayama Prefecture)
Oki Dengaku Dance and Garden Dance (March 11, 1992, Shimane Prefecture)
Aki-no-hayashida Performance (December 15, 1997, Hiroshima Prefecture)
Shirahige-jinja Shrine Dengaku Dance (December 27, 2000, Saga Prefecture)
Tsutsukowake-jinja Shrine Rice Planting Dance (February 06, 2004, Fukushima Prefecture)

For information about Dengaku in cooking, refer to Miso Dengaku. Dengaku performances also sometimes include 'taka-ashi' or short stilts, and this is thought to be the origin of the name of the dish 'miso dengaku', or tofu with miso is grilled on short skewers that look like small stilts.

There is also a Japanese sweet called Fukuyama Dengaku which is a rice cake with powdered soybeans.

Oden is a dish derived from boiled Dengaku (originally a grilled tofu dish).

[Original Japanese]