Toka no Sechie (踏歌節会)

Toka no sechie was an event where the emperor watched toka (stamping songs) in the Imperial Court every January (by the lunar calendar). Along with toka no sechie, a banquet was also held, to which court nobles of Goi (Fifth Rank) and higher were invited. Toka no sechie was divided into two categories, otoko toka (the stamping song event of men) held on January 14 or 15 (by the lunar calendar) and onna toka (the stamping song event of women) held on January 16 (by the lunar calendar).

The first appearance of toka in historical materials was in an article about 'toka performed by Han Chinese and others' on March 1 (January 16 by the lunar calendar), 693 which is included in the "Nihonshoki" (Chronicle of Japan).

The article on March 1 (January 16 by the lunar calendar), 742, in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) states that boys and little girls performed toka dances, which indicates toka seems to have become popular by then.

Until the era of Emperor Koko, onna toka had been held on January 16 (by the lunar calendar) almost every year. From February 21 (January 14 by the lunar calendar), 889, otoko toka was held mostly on January 14 (by the lunar calendar), but in 955, toka dances were temporarily halted.

Toka dances were restarted under the reign of Emperor Reizei, but on March 6 (January 14 by the lunar calendar), 983, otoko toka ceased being performed, and just onna toka continued to be held annually. For a decade after 1012, even onna toka was halted.

In 1519, even onna toka was no longer performed due to the prolonged turbulent times that year, and during the Edo period, formal toka dances were rarely performed.

At present, the toka Shinto ritual is held annually on January 11 at Atsuta-jingu Shrine.

Otoko toka
Otoko toka was held on January 14 or 15 (by the lunar calendar). On January 14, the emperor appeared on the southern fourth section of the eastern hall of Seiryoden (literally, "Limpid Cool Hall," an Imperial summer palace). And to the emperor, the officer of Kuraryo (Bureau of Palace Storehouses) presented kisewata (floss silk that absorbs the fragrance and the dew of a chrysanthemum by covering the flower overnight, which was believed to help maintain perpetual youth and longevity), and the officer of Tsukumo-dokoro (the palace office responsible for making accessories and furnishings) presented artificial flowers decorated with cotton. Okei (imperial family members and court nobles) were invited to the event. Most of them were seated on the round mats that were placed on nagahashi (the corridor from Seiryoden to Shishinden [the hall for state ceremonies]). The emperor's sake (Japanese liquor) and food, prepared by the officer of Mizushi-dokoro (the cooking section in court for the emperor), was handed out by the officer of Kuraryo to the okei. Performing gagaku (ancient Japanese court music), toka dancers came from the forecourt of Shishinden, went under Senka-mon Gate, and entered the forecourt of Seiryoden. After making three rounds in the forecourt, the dancers came before the emperor, dedicated Norito (Shinto prayer), and performed 'Takekawa' (Bamboo River, the title of a song of "saibara" [a genre of the Heian period Japanese court music]). After this ritual, dancers approached the emperor from the southern staircase of the eastern hall of Seiryoden. Two naishi (ladies-in-waiting to the emperor) cooperatively divided the kisewata, and Rokui no Kurodo (the Chamberlain of Sixth Rank) received the divided kisewata from the naishi behind a bamboo blind, and gave it to the wagon (Japanese harp) players and others in the forecourt as a reward for their performance. They then performed 'Ware Ie' (My House, the title of a saibara song), and exited from the end of the northern corridor of Seiryoden.

Onna toka
Onna toka was held on January 16 (by the lunar calendar). Similar to the Ganjitsu no sechie (New Year's Festival), the emperor appeared on Nanden (another name of Shishinden), invited a large number of his retainers, including the okei, and provided them with sake and food. When the first dish was finished, Kuzu no Utabue (the music and dance dedicated to the emperor by kuzu [people who lived in Mt. Yoshino, Yamato Province]) was performed, and when the second and third dishes were served, as many as 40 maiko (apprentice geisha) arrived. First, when the maiko arrived at the southern corner of Kyoshoden (Palace Archives), they would stand in place facing the east. The maiko divided into groups, and continued along the western side of Kyoshoden. When they reached the first southern corner of Kyoshoden, they turned east and moved forward on either side of chido (the road exclusive to the emperor), and when they reached the forecourt of Shishinden, they moved south. They then moved north, forming a large circle. After moving in a clockwise motion, they divided into two groups and moved south, then north and then exited to the eastern forecourt of Kyoshoden. They stood facing the east, sang songs, and, upon completing their songs, they left. After a banquet, they visited chugu (Palace of the Empress) and were rewarded by the empress for their performance. The above-mentioned process is explained in detail in several books, including 'Saikyuki' (the record of court practices and usage, written in Chinese style by MINAMOTO no Takaaki) and 'Gokeshidai' (the Ritual Protocol of the Oe House).

[Original Japanese]