Jyangara Nenbutsu Odori is a ritual dance performance, opening with a Taiko piece with origins in Fukushima Prefecture more than 350 years ago. This peaceful, powerful Buddhist rite is performed during Bon Festival to honor ancestors. It’s also prayed for special relatives in the days after they have passed away, to celebrate the soul’s eternal nature. Dancers move in a simple sliding movement— suriashi—inviting us to the silence of Japanese beauty. They invite us to join them in ceremony, connecting prayers to our own ancestors, invoking a quiet touching of the soul. 

The performers wear the traditional Japanese kimono; the white welcomes ancient spirits as the color of purity, cleansing, and appreciation. In the technique called oogi-gaeshi, dancers gracefully flip their traditional sensu fans to imitate floating flowers. Although it’s not a tradition for Jyangara, women in some regions cover their faces in Bon dances. In SHIHO’s staging today, her face is hidden by the sadogasa straw hat to suggest humility in the gaze of an ancestor. The effect also reflects the spiritual aspect of life, a looking away from the human realm towards that other realm of mystery and rite. 

The ceremony is arranged by Sawako Ama and Rieko Kotoku with Japanese choreography by SHIHO TENDOU. The taiko drums express the beauty in Japanese culture and spiritual beliefs. Taiko has been in Japan since the 7th century, and the drums are likely a Korean and Chinese cultural influence. They’ve been used over the centuries to communicate, support military events, and in theater, religion, festivals, and concerts. Taiko drums, it is said, speak for themselves.

SHIHO TENDOU has been training since the age of three within the Tendou-Ryu traditional group established by her grandmother. She has also been training under one of Japan’s famous Kabuki dance performers, Kikuhiro Otowa. She studied Theater Arts at Nihon University of the Arts, and through her dance experiences, she desires to show the beauty of spiritual energy and emotion to help the audience feel more than they normally would from something purely visual.

KOHAKU is a unique performance collaborative based in Sacramento that specializes in traditional and contemporary Japanese performing arts, such as the Kagura sacred dance of Shinto shrines, Taiko drum, and a variety of other celebrated cultural music and dance. Their passion is to share the rich cultural heritage of Japan.

Weekend 1

July 6 & 7


Dance Origin: Japan
Genre: Traditional
Title: Jyangara Nenbutsu Odori

Website: kohakuart.com

Who's Who

Choreographers: Sawako Ama, Rieko Kotoku, Shiho Tendou
Soloist: Shiho Tendou
Sawako Ama (taiko drum, vocals) Rieko Kotoku (taiko drum, vocals)

Photo: RJ Muna

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The mission of World Arts West is to support local artists sustaining diverse world dance and music traditions by providing needed services and performance opportunities, while deepening the public's support of and engagement with these inspiring culture bearers.