Lifestyles and Traditions - Culture
Rengee-mai Dances at Kokubun-ji Temple are performed every year on April 21, the anniversary of Kōbō Daishi's passing on the Gregorian calendar, as a dedication of bugaku (court dance and music). It is said that 120 dances were dedicated in the past, but nowadays, seven dances are performed: the "Dance of the Sleeping Buddha", Shishimai lion dance, Taiheiraku Dance, "the Dance of Mugiyaki", "the Dance of Ryūō", "the Dance of the Mountain God, Kitoku" and "the Dance of the Buddha". Before the dances, there is a procession called gyōdō, and after the dances are completed, there is a final dance called Iremai, which only the music is played. The wooden stage set up in front of the main building of Kokubun-ji Temple makes richly expressive sounds as the dancers move their feet across the stage. Together with the music, they form the sound effect for the Rengee-mai dances.
Furthermore, it is believed that the dances were introduced to Oki from the capital during their heyday more than 1000 years ago during Nara Period or Heian Period. The masks used in the dances inherit aspects from Chinese, South-eastern Asian and Indonesian cultures. "The Dance of the Sleeping Buddha", Shishimai lion dance and "the Dance of the Buddha" are said to retain the remnants of Gigaku, an extinct genre of masked drama-dance performance.