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Photography: Hyogo Mugyuda

Senbon Rokusai Nenbutsu Dance

The Rokusai Nenbutsu dance is a form of traditional folk performance in which dancers accompanied by gongs and taiko drumming chant Buddhist prayers. The dance is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. These performances have a long history, and are performed annually during such events as the Obon Festival, to send off the spirits of the dead, and during traditional “Rokujizo Meguri” temple visits.

The Senbon Rokusai Association is just one conservation organization that has received the Intangible Cultural Property designation for the Kuya-style of Kyoto's Rokusai Nenbutsu dances, which originate in the Nishijin district of the city. It is generally said that Kyoto's Rokusai Nenbutsu Dances were first begun in the Heian Period (794-1185), by the monk Kuya, when they were known as "Kuya Yoyaku Nenbutsu" (literally, leaping Kuya-style Buddhist prayer), but there are various theories about the dances' origin.
Every year, the Senbon Rokusai Association performs "Kansen Mawari," a ritual to spread virtue (via the recitation of sutras before the spirits of the dead) for three days from August 11th to 13th; and on the 14th, Urabon Festival rituals will be performed publicly at Senbon Enma-do Temple. The Nishijin district is known for combining the new with the traditional, and the Senbon Rokusai Association aims bring some of these Nishijin qualities to this performance, with a bright and fast-tempo performance full of entertainment. The performance will include many performing arts popular in Kyoto during the mid-Edo Period (1603-1868), such as long folk songs, noh theater, kyogen theater, kabuki theater, traditional kagura music and dancing, traditional festival music, and more. These will be incorporated with flute/drum music and performance, as a part of the Senbon Rokusai Association's original presentation.
After the Meiji Period (1868-1912), as an interest in elegant culture grew, Rokusai Nenbutsu developed its own unique style of performance that separated it from its original music. Amongst these developments were pieces like "Suzume-odori," which includes the sounds of traditional Gion-bayashi music; the rhythmical, leaping Lion Dance with its unique costumes; and the brilliant costumes woven with golden thread in Nishijin in "Kumo-no-Sei," in which they are walked about with lions—all of these make up the styles of Senbon Rokusai.

Date & Time

August 14 (Wed), 2019
Beginning around 7:00 p.m.


City Bus 206, 6, 46 to "Kenryuko-mae" bus stop


Traditional Festivals