Nitayama Deer Dance Preservation Group

Theme : Traditional Art, Matsuri, Folkways Area : Mogami, Shinjo

The origins of this dance are unclear, but the townsfolk at the time created a dance that imitated the movements of serow that often flocked by the near Ogura mountain. That year there was a record harvest and since then, it was said the dance attracted popularity as the “Harvest Dance”. The deer carries a nobori banner on its back showing the Chinese characters for “10th day rain” and “5th day wind”. The people living in the region believed that if the rain fell every tenth day and there was wind every fifth day, this would lead to a bountiful harvest so the dance is thought to be a prayer for plentiful crops. The deer dance is made up with 7 dancers and 2 Jikata musicians. The dancers wear a deer’s headdress shaped like a serow with a cloak both front and back that goes down to the dancer’s knees. A double-sided drum is fixed to the stomach area and this is played while dancing. It is very unusual to see a serow imitation dance anywhere in Japan. The Jikata wear a straw hat in the shape of manju (bean paste cake) which also has a cloak fixed to it which hide the Jikata’s body and they play the sasara (a percussion instrument made of wooden plates strung together with a cord) and chant a Buddhist Goeikacho. The Hagino Nitayama Deer Dance was designated as one of Yamagata’s prefectural intangible folklore cultural assets in 1976.

CopyrightYamagata Pref
ProductionYamagata Prefecture Lifelong Learning Culture Foundation