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What's Niwabi-sai

The Celebration of Bonfire Festivals (“Niwabi-sai”) at night, the essence of which being the dedication of performances of Kagura to the gods, has been a tradition of Japan since ancient time. Our “Niwabi-sai” tonight is an attempt to revive the spirit of this ancient tradition.  Kumano-taisha, which forms the setting for our "Niwabi-sai", is also known by the alternative name "Hinomoto-Hidezome-no-yashiro", or the Shrine to the Origin of Fire in Japan. An annual "sanka-sai"(Fire Ritual) is celebrated at the shrine, which is also endowed with a long tradition of legends associated with fire:"The paramount essence of sacred ritual lies in the rendering of homage to fire."

Bonfires blazing
In the court of a shrine
Surrounded by a sacred fence
The sound of a flute
Makes souls so serene
As to feel
Gods may be
Here and listening

As we are reminded by this Tanka of Fujihara Kimishige (Contained in his Heian period Fuzeishu collection), the purpose of Niwabi was to purify a place where the gods were to be welcomed, cleanse the hearts of those who were to offer up their performances of Kagura.It is our aim to conduct our Niwabi-sai concert in the spirit of this Tanka, embaracing both the serenity of a purified night filled with sacred sound and the brilliance of the music of celestial nymphs.

 

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