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Atobe no Odori Nenbutsu

Buddhist Invocation with Dance in Atobe

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(c) Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties

Filming Date 7 April 2002
Filming PlaceThe main temple of Seihouji, Sakushi, Nagano

Atobe no odori nenbutsu is a religious dance chanting nenbutsu, or the Buddhist invocation.

Reasons for selection

A unique form of religious dance, originally used to spread the teaching of Buddhism and passed down to the present generation.

Area where performed

Atobe-san saiho-ji temple of the Jodo sect Buddhism in O-aza Atobe, Saku city, Nagano prefecture.

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance

Detailed explanation

Atobe no odori nenbutsu is a religious dance chanting nenbutsu or the Buddhist invocation. Odori literally means "dance," nenbutsu is "the Buddhist invocation." It is said that Saint Ippen began the odori nenbutsu to exorcise all evils. Atobe no odori nenbutsu was performed at the festival held on April 17th honoring Kannon, the goddess of Mercy. Today it is held on the first Sunday on April. In 2000, there are 42 members in the preservation society. The performers dance in the dojo which is the special enclosure inside the temple. One dancing group consists of nine performers. There are two sanshiki or chorus leaders, others play instruments including a pair of taiko (drums) and six kane (small gong) , one by one.

According to Koshiba (1977:81) , the combination of dance and chant is as follows:
While singing the phrase " namu amida butsu, arigataya," one person at a time enters the dojo. The next section, also referred to as the sanshiki, is sung with the words " sai no kawara san " and led by the two chorus leaders. During this time, the dancers slowly move around the taiko in the middle of the dojo. After a while, the " kiri nenbutsu " (the final invocation) is sung with the words namu amida butsu, and when this song ends the actual dance begins. The dance consists of three parts: (a) facing the taiko in the center, the dancers take short hops to the right; (b) in the same position as (a) , the dancers take much larger and more vigorous hops to the right; (c) the dancers return to their original positions of the sanshiki and quietly leave the dojo, one by one.

1977 "Atobe no Odori Nembutsu." Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective. pp.80-81.
Tokyo: The Japan Foundation.

Publication and textual documentation

KOIZUMI Fumio, TOKUMARU Yoshihiko, and
YAMAGUCHI Osamu, ed.
1977 Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective.
Tokyo: The Japan Foundation.

Audio documentation

Fukkoku: Nippon no minzoku ongaku [Repress: Folk music in Japan] . CD.
Tokyo: Japan Victor Foundation for promotion of traditional musics.

Visual documentation

Traditional Musics in Asia: Malaysia and Japan.
16mm. Tokyo: Mitsu Productions.

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

The board of education in Saku City.

Data provider

Ms. Hiroko Yamamoto
Editorial Advisor
Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Address: 6 Fukuromachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8484, Japan