Sanja Matsuri


Sanja Matsuri

Muscular men dance in the seaside in a battle among equals.

Legend holds that the statue in Asakusa of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, was found in a fishnet and enshrined thereafter. Two fishermen perform a lyrical dance in this humorous piece, only to be haunted by evil spirits. This dance piece is performed to the lively rhythm of Kiyomoto music.


by Abe Satomi

The two fishermen

The curtain opens to the sound of waves on the River Miyato. The two brothers Hamanari and Takenari appear in a boat. The former has a rope, and the latter a fishing net. Their movements mimic the large dolls on festival floats. They sing that today’s catch is the gift of Asakusa’s goddess of mercy Kannon. They descend from their boats and depict in dance the life of the fish market and fishermen.


“Don’t wake the pretty woman”

The fishermen remove their waistcoats and dance comically to a popular song of the day. The lyrics say, “Because I love you, I’ve come a long way in life. . . Don’t ring the bell, since it might wake a pretty woman”. The men perform a lively dance in choreographed motion. They portray a woman who tries to stop a man from leaving. The singers sing, “I hate it when the birds cry,” and the dancers put their palms together and mimic birds in unison.

[from left]Zendama(Nakamura Shido)、Akudama(Nakamura Hashinosuke) October 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Good vs. evil

Dark clouds appear above, and the spirits of good and evil come down and capture the fishermen. They dance with masks with the characters for good and evil. The evil character does his dance recalling famous bad guys, such as Kiyokage and Kajiwara Genta. He tells the story of Genta’s lover falling into frog hell.


Love story

The dancers mimic a puppet theatre singer and musician, then dance a love story as the music slows. The bad character takes the male role with a hand towel wrapped around the neck, while the good character is the female with a hand towel around the forehead. They continue the humorous dance and finish the scene to lyrics suggesting that life never goes as planned.

[from left]Akudama(Onoe Shoroku)、Zendama(Onoe Kikunosuke) December 2007 Minamiza Theatre


Dance of evil spirit

The dancers remove their outer wear. The good character wears blue undergarments, and the evil character black. This is the highlight of the piece, an energetic dance to a brisk tempo. They use their fans to perform an “evil dance” that was popular at the time. They stand and jump, jump and sit, bounce on one leg, jump while sitting, and cross their legs while spinning, among other movements. These make use of all of the dancers’ skills and are unique among Kabuki dances. Finally, the good and evil spirits disappear, and the two fishermen return to their boat.

[from left]Akudama(Nakamura Kantaro)、Zendama(Nakamura Shichinosuke) December 2005 Kabukiza Theatre