Azuma Asobi, the annual Reisai Ceremony at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto:
The Azuma Asobi Dance is held every year, on June 15th, during the annual Reisai (例祭) ceremony at Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) in Kyoto. When I arrived at Yasaka shrine, the Honden (本殿) was festively decorated and members of the Yasaka shrine community where entering to attend the ceremony. On each side of the Kaguraden (神楽殿), there were rows of chairs, reserved for parishes of the shrine.
At 10.00 am the Reisai (例祭) ceremony started with a purification ritual and prayers to the Deity of Yasaka shrine.
Azuma Asobi, Heian Style Dance:
In honour of the Deity of Yasaka shrine an ancient court dance, called “Azuma asobi (東遊)“ was performed. Four man, in traditional ancient ceremonial court dress, entered the Kaguraden (神楽殿). Outside of their stylish dress, they brandished a katana. Court musicians accompanied the dancers with gagaku music. Two dances were performed by the Yasaka Gagaku Society (弥栄雅楽会). See All Pictures Here:
History of Azuma Asobi Dance:
According to the website of the “The International Shakuhachi Society” “Asobi” means musical entertainment; Azuma is the East. In ancient times, the inhabitants of the eastern provinces offered music to the Court as a token of their submission, to allay the anxiety that was felt concerning their loyalty. During the reign of Emperor Daigo (醍醐天皇, February 6, 885 – October 23, 930), the musical notation for the azuma-asobi was fixed by imperial command. The songs, largely from the Sagami and Suruga regions, are still performed today at the imperial court and in shrines.
According to the oldest written records Emperor Junnin (淳仁天皇, 733 – November 10, 765) heard music from Azuma-kuni, the “Eastern country”, in 763. The “Azuma-mai”, “dances from the East”, were also on the programme of the Tōdai-ji (東大寺) festivals of 861. In 889, during the reign of Emperor Uda (宇多天皇, June 10, 867 – September 3, 931), a great rinjisai, or extraordinary festival was held at the Kamo Shrine (賀茂神社) near Kyoto, because the Kamo deities had been elected tutelary deities of the new capital. On this occasion Azuma Asobi were performed with song and dance and remained henceforth the main feature of the Kamo-matsuri, the highest festival of this very old and famous shrine. Under Emperor Suzaku (朱雀天皇, September 7, 923 – September 6, 952) the Azuma Asobi were also performed at the Iwashimizu Hachimangū (石清水八幡宮) on Otoko-yama (“Man-mountain”).