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How to go see the Fujishima Shishi-odori (Fujishima Lion Dance) ?

Updated: Jan 21


Every year during August, dancers of Fujishima area in Tsuruoka City proudly display the tradition of their ancestors: the Fujishima Shishi-Odori 藤島獅子踊り (The Fujishima's Lion Dance).

Unlike other Shishi-odori, the Fujishima dance is not performed by dancers disguised in deers, but in lion costumes. In Japanese, shishi can be written 獅子: lion or 鹿: deer. In Fujishima's case, we are talking about lions.

This dance has been performed for more than 1300 years now in six hamlets of Fujishima area: Otani 大谷, Soegawa, 添川, Higashi Horikoshi 東堀越, Yairogi 八色木, Hôei 豊栄 and Watamae 渡前. Each performance site presents differences in the dance itself, but they all have the same purpose: purification and benediction.


Why the Shishi-odori?

Nowadays in Fujishima area, the shishi 獅子 (lion) are seen as messengers from the gods, and also as gods themselves. But during ancient times, lions were thought to be ferocious creatures who would maliciously destroy the fields and the crops. Villagers thought that worshiping the lions would make them turn good and that they would bring happiness and blessings in return of their faith. Through time, villagers spread religious practices turned towards the lions, praying for better crops and protection from diseases. The shishi-odori is one of those practices.

Shishi costume

Symbolism of the shishi-odori

The Fujishima shishi-odori lasts between one and two hours (it depends on the performance site). Even if each shrine has its own choreography and dancing style, there is one scene that is found in every shishi-odori event of Fujishima area: the "deification" scene. The god-to-be lions, patiently waiting while sitting of the ground, are waiting to receive their supernatural powers from the Sasarasuri 簓すり, little girls whose head is a flower pot and who are scraping sticks in rhythm to wake up the godlike side of the shishi. Once they turned into gods, shishi rejoice about their new condition and give villagers a dance of joy : the shishi-odori itself.

In other words, shishi-odori is a gratitude gift from the lions to the villagers that made them gods.

The sasarasuri circle a shishi to make him a god

Places to see the shishi-odori

❶ Daichi Shrine 大地神社

Name of the dance: Oyani Shishimai 大谷獅子舞

Date: August 15th

Google maps

We recommend you send us a message beforehand to know the time of the performance (subject to change every year)


❷ Ryôsho Shrine 両所神社

Name of the dance: Ryôsho-jinja Onshishimai 両所神社御獅子舞

Date: August 18th

Time: 14:00-16:00

Google maps


❸ Higashihorikoshi Niiyama Shrine 東堀新山越神社

Name of the dance: Higashihorikoshi Shishiodori 東堀越獅子踊り

Date: August 18th

Time: 13:00-16:00

Google map


❹ Kôtai shrine 皇太神社


① Name of the dance: Yairogi Shishiodori 八色木獅子踊り

Date: August 17th

We recommend you send us a message beforehand to know the time of the performance (subject to change every year)


② Name of the dance: Hôei Shishiodori 豊栄獅子踊り

Date: August 16th

We recommend you send us a message beforehand to know the time of the performance (subject to change every year)

Google map


❺ Gosho Shrine 五所神社

Name of the dance: Watamae Shishiodori 渡前獅子踊り

Date: August 15th

We recommend you send us a message beforehand to know the time of the performance (subject to change every year)

Google map



Go watch a shishi-odori performance

Watching a shishi-odori play is 100% free. You do not need any reservation. Just come wherever you want, whenever you want.

We recommend you come early so you can be served saké to "make one with the rice-giving gods".

You can go to Fujishima Station from Tsuruoka station for 200 yens (6 min). From there, walk until the shrine of your choice or take a taxi (Fujishima Taxi phone number: +81 235-64-2137).


DEGAM Tsuruoka Tourism Bureau (General Incorporated Association)

Address: 3-1 Suehiromachi, MARICA East Building, 2nd floor, Tsuruoka, Yamagata 997-0015, JAPAN

TEL: (+81) 0235-26-1218

E-mail: tsuruoka@degam.jp

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