Tora-mai ( tiger dance)
Around 830 years ago a landlord in the old Tohoku area ordered soldiers to dance in tiger costumes in order to raise their morale. It later developed in the Tora-mai; a creative dance with tiger costumes together with the musical instruments. Back then, it was very dangerous to sail and fishermen and their family would pray for their safe return. It was then believed that tigers traveled very long distances in a single day and return (4000km one way, 4000km return). So the Tora-mai began to spread amongst local fishermen as a prayer for their safe journey. It is also believed that tigers had a special power to prevent or extinguish fires.
The seaside area of Tohoku suffered from many fires, mostly due to earthquakes, so the Tora-mai was performed as a fire prevention ritual.
How they dance
- Asobi-tora (playing tigers ) : Moving like tigers playing together, lay and roll around the ground or one tiger performer stand on the shoulder of the other tiger performer. Cute, beautiful and funny movement.
- Hane-tora (jumping tigers) : They jump and move their heads and bottoms with dynamic and mad action. They express the tigers which are running away from the hunter samurai Kato.The performers actions are similar to speedy powerful martial arts movement.
- Sasa-bami (tigers eating bamboo leaves): They perform like tigers cleaning their teeth with bamboo leaves. Tigers in breeding season become more wild in search of prey. The view of bamboos snatched and knocked down by wild tigers are one of the highlights of their performance.