Bonfire Dance at 0:00 Jan.1, 2012

By Kazu
It began at midnight.
At the entrance of KAKUTA Shrine premises in Kuriyama Town, Sorachi sub-prefectural area, Hokkaido, the torches flared in the wind and silence.
People living in Kuriyama Town and adjacent area got together and went through the gate of this shrine one by one.
It was minus 8 degree in Celsius.
What were the people seeking for ?

The bonfire is the icon of resurrection of hope and life in both occidental and oriental culture, I think.
It is tall order to keep all the torches burning in cold temperature through the night but it is required by Japanese God.    
Kakuta shrine is not so big and is not swamped by tremendous amount of people like Hokkaido shrine in Sapporo and Meiji Shirine in Tokyo. Each municipality and community has its shrine to pray for the bumper crops in autumn and peace of the land as the branch of Japanese Shinto organization.  

For the people who visited the shrine, almost non-alcohol hot drink "Ama-zake" (Sweet alcohol in direct translation) is served as a God bless.     As you may know, Japan takes the Zero tolerance policy with regard to drunken driving like other countries.  Even kids are allowed to drink this Ama-zake but driving a car after too much drink may leads you to police office or detention center. Adult males prefer real "sake" alcohol but females and kids love the taste of  Ama-zake made of debris produced in the process of  brewering Japanese sake.                                                                
At the beginning of the bonfire dance, two oriental lions(獅子) were throwing themselves to the ground and sleeping. The legendary drunken hobgoblin (猩猩 shoujou)delivered disposable cups to the visitors and pour Japanese alcohol sake.
   For the players, two players for one lion, stood the coldness of the snow and air.
  Each lantern shows that itself is the torch for God with the words 御神燈. The sound of drums and Japanese flutes let the visitors know it's the start of the dance.

The hobgoblin and lions started to dance.

Audiences kept very calm but the sound of drums and Japanese flutes were getting louder. The temperature was getting lower.
The climax of the dance play is the battle of the drunken hobgoblin and the lions.
And the hobgoblin use Japanese alcohol sake to calm down the lions.

  The lions got drunken.

One lion started to sleep but the other kept dancing.
Two lions and even the hobgoblin started to sleep
praying for bumper crops.and
Good night !
The very best of happiness for the people in the world. 
God, bless us!

Thanks to dancers !

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