Traditional Festivals in Aomori : Emburi - 1
(Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan)

Another festival that represents Hachinohe along with the Hachinohe Sansya Taisai Festival is the Emburi held in the most sever period in the winter, mid February.

Agricultural ceremonies “Ta-asobi (Rice field play)” to pray for good harvest was developed into the Emburi. Meanwhile the Hachinohe Sansya Taisai festival had been a town festival, the Emburi had been the festival which bearers were the farmer in the vicinity. Although there is the theory that the Emburi goes back to the end of 12 century, the literature referred at first was the diary of the clan written in 1715.

Originally the Emburi had been taken place separately in each settlement, and it was abolished once as an old custom after the Meiji Restoration. In 1881, it was revived, and Tamon Osawa, Ichihei Kohno and others changed the system into the way that all groups showed the dance together in Downtown Hachinohe to activate the central part of Hachinohe.

Well, on the first day, the Emburi starts at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. In a frozen cold air, each group dedicates a dance to the Chozyasan-Shinla Jinja Shrine which is located on the hill about 15 minutes' walk from Downtown Hachinohe. Strictly Speaking, they line up to decide the order of the dance at midnight, but I always abstain from visiting there at such an hour because I am unwilling to going up the frozen road to the shrine in the winter night. Incidentally, Tamon Osawa made the system that all groups dedicated the dance at the Chozyasan-Shinla Jinja Shrine.

Each group is composed of a chief, who has a Zai (a white sticks wrapped in white paper) at the lead, a bannerman, performers (Tayuu) to show the Emburi, performers of other dancing and music accompaniment. The approach from the Torii (gate) to the main shrine is filled with about 30 groups.

Only performers (Tayuu) of the Emburi show the dance in front of the main shrine. After ending to dedicate the dance and receiving a purification from the chief priest of shrine, they receive a libation from the president of Hachinohe Brewery and leave. Only one group can go inside the main shrine. It is the Uriichi group, which is the general reperesntative managing all groups and established in 19th century in order to smooth over the trouble among groups.

In the early morning, it takes two hours until 30 groups finish the dance one by one in front of the main shrine in the precincts surrounded by cedar trees, and the number of groups shows the accumulation of the time in Hachinohe.

Some of the groups, which finished dedicating the dance in front of the main shrine, show the dance in the premises of the precincts. It is difficult to grasp the entire flow of the dances in the Issei-Zuri (Simultaneous performance of all groups in the main street) that is the main event on the first day because all the groups dance at once in the short time in so crowded main street in Downtown Hachinohe that the audience cannot move. However, in this place, the audience can appreciate all the dances that compose the festival from the beginning to the end, so it is a great opportunity to understand the Emburi.

The Emburi is composed of the Emburi dances, which became the origin of the name of the festival, and entertainments for blessing performed between the Emburi dances.

The name of Emburi derives from an agricultural tool Eburi to level and plough the water-drawn field. Therefore, “Performing the Emburi” is expressed as “Suru” that means “dragging” an agricultural tool. In the first place, the name of an agricultural tool Eburi comes from “Emburu” that means “waking up the spirits sleeping in the earth by shaking”.

The Emburi has two types. One is the Naga Emburi that keeps the old style and another is newer the Dousai Emburi. The Nariigo Ita, which the leading role of the Naga Emburi, Tokuro, has, is said to be a remnant of an agricultural tool Eburi.

Both Emburi are done by three or five performers who are called the Tayuu. In the Naga Emburi, a leading role Toukurou performs complicatedly and others assist him, meanwhile, in the Dousai Emburi, every Tayuus take the same movement.

Now, the Dousai Emburi is popular since the movement of all Tayuus is showy, fast and attractive, compared with the Naga Emburi in which all members perform gently and the movement of the leading role determines the whole. However, when looking at the Naga Emburi by the Nakaibayashi group, I was very impressed with its performance in which the Toukurou with exceptional skills extended time and transformed it into a tidy flow.

The Emburi consists of the Suri-hajime, the Naka no Suri and the Suri-osame. Its way of performance and the order overlap with the process of rice production and it hopes that the rice grows well and has rich harvest according to the performance.

The performance that are showcased between the Emburi is entertainment for blessing. While the Emburi prays for good harvest, entertainment for blessing celebrates the New Year.

Entertainment for blessing are composed of the Enko Enko that several children dance, the Matsu no Mai (Dance of Pine) that a man, who drank a Doburoku (Home-brewed sake), dances with a folding fan on which a pine branch is drawn, the Ebisu Mai (Dance of the god of wealth) that Ebisu god catches a sea bream with a fishing rod, the Daikoku May (Dance of incarnation of Mahesvara)” that Daikoku god dances with a hammer and a folding fan and the Kanawa Girl that a man makes various shapes by combining metal rings. Most of entertainment for blessing is performed by children. In the Matsu no Mai (Dance of Pine), an elementary school student performs a drunk man, drawing beard with ink on face. But, no one criticizes that its performance is unfavorable from an educational viewpoint. Hachinohe is great.

Well, the end of this lively two-hour morning for dedicating the dance and exhibiting the performance is Hakuryo junior high school group. It is natural because junior high school students can’t form a line to take turns in the middle of the night, and the situation that youngest they perform at last happens to entrust the future of Emburi. Only they are composed of 9 members. Giving opportunities to experience the traditional art of the hometown for as many children as possible will become the power to succeed the Emburi.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

From Tokyo to Hachinohe
by train
: 3 hours from “Tokyo Station” to “Hachinohe Station” by Shinkansen (high speed train), one service per one hour.

From “Hachinohe Station” to “downtown Hachinohe”
20 minutes by bus from “Hahinohe Station” to “Jusan-nichi-machi”, frequent service in the daytime. The site is within downtown Hachinohe near "Jusan-nichi-machi".

Hachinohe Tourist Information Website

Aomori Sightseeng Guide

Acoommodations in Hachinohe

"青森県の歴史散歩" (青森県高等学校地方史研究会編, 山川出版社, 2007)
"図説青森県の歴史" (成田稔・長谷川成一, 河出書房新社, 1991)
"郷土資料事典 青森県" (人文社, 1998)
"季刊あおもり草子第25号" (企画集団プリズム, 1985)
"えんぶり読本" (正部家種康, 伊吉書院, 1992)
"江戸時代ひとづくり風土記2青森" (農山村漁村文化協会, 1992)
"八戸市博物館 えんぶり展" (八戸市博物館, 2012)
"八戸三社大祭の歴史"(三浦忠司, 伊吉書院, 2007)
"八戸三社大祭公式ガイドブック"(八戸観光コンベンション協会, 2011)
Emburi (Hachinohe City Office)
Hachinohe Tourist Information Website

2018.01 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version


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Dedication of the dance to deities in the shrine in Emburi

Photo by Daigo Ishii