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Shinigu ensures long life, prosperity

Date Posted: 2009-11-12

The biggest single reason folks of Gushiken Village say they’re doing so well is Shinigu, a dance that’s the highlight of the village festival. Shinigu’s just completed its 2009 event November 6th, running for a week on the lunar calendar, meaning it took place July 19th through 26th. No matter the calendar, it’s the festivities that count. And Shinigu is no ordinary dance.

Shinigu packs a lot of deep meaning into the ceremonial dance, “being thankful for the protection of God, the wish and celebration of the good harvest and good catch.” This elderly but spry bunch of citizens credit Shinigu with carrying them through the year, and they celebrate by dancing and singing along with the sounds of Taiko drums. They call it ‘The Dance of the Sacred Praying to God’. The ladies of Gushiken Village do it, a dance from made by two double circles of ladies; an inside circle of single young ladies and an outer circle of dance-age ladies. Each wears a traditional kimono of dark dyed fabric style. The young ladies also wear a long white ribbon in their hair, called Misaaji, tied in the back. The older gals wear their ribbon, called Saaji, woven into their hair and tied in the front.

The leader is called Norokumui, meaning ‘same as God’, and she wears the God kimono, a brilliant white. She sings as she makes a full circle of the garden, a move called Ashibi-myaa, dancing with a variety of hand movements. Believe it, there are 11 songs in the ritual, and the words are valued. The basis of the famous Ryukyuan Dance came from the Shinigu dance, which is believed to have begun about 300 years ago.

Gushiken Village has claimed perfection with Shinigu through several hundred years, first performing publictly at Ocean Expo in 1975. The village was notified its “God Hasaagi” was designated a cultural asset in nearby Motobu Town in 1977, performed at the 1996 Kyushu District Entertainment Tournament, had its Shinigu Dance designated a cultural asset in Motobu Town in 1997, and performed at the G-8 Summit in Okinawa in 2000.


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