In Yahashira Shrine of Nara City in central Japan, young men of the Kami-fukawa community stand in a semi-circle dressed in samurai clothes and carrying bows. One by one, they are called to the centre by an old man who reads the name of a character in the tales of the feud between the Genji and Heike clans. Each in turn delivers his character’s lines from memory, in a distinctive accent but without acting or musical accompaniment. When all twenty-six characters have spoken, the youths rhythmically stamp their feet and sing themselves offstage. Originally a rite of passage at the age of seventeen to mark the formal acceptance of the eldest son into the community of the twenty-two families of Kami-fukawa, the Daimokutate is now performed annually in mid-October by young men of various ages and from many different families. Indeed, since the twentieth century, the dispersion of the original twenty-two families has meant that other residents of Nara have led the effort to preserve the ceremony. Unique in Japan as a dramatic performance without acting or music, the Daimokutate is an important marker of identity and plays an indispensable role in maintaining solidarity in this mountainous town. Read more about this element on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage website.
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