November 14, 2023
TOKYO – The fiercer the lions’ rampage, the better the harvest, so the legend goes. And these beasts feature an abundant coat of realistic fur woven from the bark of an indigenous tree.
The traditional Hinashiro lion dance was performed on Oct. 21 at Minagi Shrine in Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, characterized by the beasts being clad in a Japanese traditional raincoat called a “mino.” The raincoat is normally made from rice straw, but in this case, it was woven from the bark of a kind of palm tree called “shuro” and resembles long fur.
Shuro trees grow abundantly in the nearby Chikugo River basin, and using it for the lion dance has become a part of the region’s culture. The Hinashiro lion dance has been designated as an intangible folk cultural asset by the Fukuoka prefectural government.
Okunchi, the autumn festival of Minagi Shrine, has a history of about 500 years, and the lion dance is performed to pray for good health and a bountiful harvest.
It is said that the more dynamic the lions’ movements, the more bountiful the harvest will be, and each powerful action brought on cheers from the crowd.