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Motsu-ji no Ennen

Ennen of Motsu-ji temple

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(c) Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties

Filming Date 3 November 2001

Motsu-ji no ennen is an unit of performances held in Motsu-ji temple on January 20th. After Jogyo zanmaiku, or traditional hoe, a lage repertory is performed.

Reasons for selection

Ennen is a living tradition essential to the long history of Japan's performing arts, as it is considered the antecedent of many of them, including No.
Ennen as performed at the Motsu-ji Temple is considered one of the most important of these.

Area where performed

Motsu-ji temple: Aza-Osa, Hiraizumi, Iwate, Japan

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation

Motsu-ji no ennen is an unit of performances held in Motsu-ji temple. Historically, from the Heian period (794-1185)to the Muromachi period (1333-1568), ennen used to be presented after hoe, the ceremonial reading of sutras, in Buddhist temples around Kyoto where the Imperial Palace was.

Ennen was a composite unit of performing arts including dance numbers, plays, and song, for instance Sarugaku, Dengaku, Furyu, Bugaku, Imayo, and Roei. Ennen programme varied depending on the temple.

Ennen literally means long life, because ennen was presented to remove all evils, to pray for a long life and happiness. Long ago, ennen was performed by priests who were good at dance and music, and later professional entertainers took their place. Ennen is considered an antecedent not only of classical No but also other performances of today. It can be said that Ennen is a data bank about the history of performing arts in Japan.

Today, Ennen are still performed in a few temples in the provinces. One of them is Ennen of Motsu-ji temple. Motsu-ji is the temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, located in Hiraizumi, Iwate prefecture, northeast Honshu. It is said that the priest Ennin founded it in 850. During the early days, services were conducted here for the protection of the country. Today, Motsu-ji temple is very famous for its historical national treasure.

Motsu-ji no ennen is held on January 20th. After jogyo zanmaiku, or traditional hoe, a large repertory including Yobitate, Dengakuodori, Romai, Notto, Rojo, Jakujo, Chigomai, Kyodenmai, Ennen (in a narrow sense), and Bugaku (in a narrow sense) are performed. As of the year 2000, Ennen is being passed down by 22 members of the priests and their sons.

Publication and textual documentation

1997 Ennen no geinoshiteki kenkyu.
Tokyo: Iwatashoin. In Japanese.

Audio documentation

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

Visual documentation

no information at present

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Motu-ji temple
Aza-Osa, Hiraizumi, Iwate 029-4100, Japan

Data provider

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