Miyagi Network News vol.137

~Visiting Ogatsucho Again, the rescue operation in Isono Shrine~

This is Daisuke Sato, the secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. This report is about our activity which was carried out on June 16th in Ogatsucho, Ishinomaki City.

For 600 years, Isono Shrine(石神社) in Ogatsucho has handed down the “Ogatsu Hoin Kagura” (Kagura means a sort of Shinto sacred music and dance) which is designated as the nationally important intangible folk-cultural property. By the great Tsunami on March 11th, the building of the shrine and a part of the Kagura utensils were washed away, moreover, the chairman of the preservation association for Kagura fell victim to this disaster. Right after the Tsunami, people had been concerned about the continuance of the Kagura, however the preservation association held the performance of Kagura in front of the Town Government Ogatsu Branch for the first time after the quake, and they have made a new step towards the reclamation.

The banner on the building office

The request for a rescue operation for the old archives which were preserved and passed down for a long time had reached the Miyagi Network through the Ishinomaki City Board of education on June 14th. According to the member of the preservation association, they found the old archives waterlogged by the Tsunami and they included the documents which were concerned with the Kagura, so we immediately assented to their request, and then we arranged to visit them on the afternoon of 16th June. This is the first time to visit the shrine after the quake and the first visit back to Ogatsucho since April 4th when we had confirmed the disappearance of 12,000 of the old archives which we had investigated before (see Miyagi Network News vol.100).

As same as the previous visit, after getting down from the Sanriku Motorway, we headed to Ogatsu along the south side bank of Kitakami River. The reconstruction of the embankment which had been destroyed by the Tsunami near the New Kitakami Bridge seemed advancing rapidly. The towncentre’s operation for removing debris was seemed to be progressing a gradually though, the sightseeing bus on the building was still in the same location as before, and the streets were empty. On the building of the Town Government Branch which was also seriously damaged by the Tsunami, the banner which expressed the gratitude for the support from the whole country and displayed the slogan stating “Ogatsu, Fukkatsu(revival)! Zettai Katsu (we will definitely overcome)!” As we looked at the building out of the corner of our eyes, we passed through the road near the embankment torn apart by the Tsunami, and arrived at Isono Shrine.

The waterlogged documents

According to the young Shinto Priest, when the building of the Shrine which preserved the old archives and Kagura utensils was washed away, the roof parts accidently fell into the floor parts where the archives and utensils were contained . Moreover, the roof parts were caught on the little island in the cove, and fortunately weren’t washed away. The day when they had been informed that the roof of the shrine had been discovered was March 30th, so they had started to search  the materials’ whereabouts in the beginning of April. However, sometimes their operation had been suspended because the victim’s bodies were floating near them.

As for the old documents, the priests of the Shinto shrine dried them themselves, and thankful to their appropriate reaction, they could be kept in good condition. Nevertheless, some documents were seriously waterlogged and some of them were adhered to each other during the drying process. Among them, there were the old documents concerned with the Kagura in the middle of the Edo Period(*). Furthermore, the 2 old books in which was written the Norito (the Shinto prayer) still made use of in the present performance of Kagura, so they requested us to immediately carry out the urgent measures. With their approval, we borrowed hundreds of historical documents and manuscripts which the former former chief priest had integrated about the local history, and we are carrying out the essential measures such as drying and cleaning.

The old document concerned with Kagura(in 1739)

The historical documents which we rescued this time were indeed made use of in the community’s traditional performance art, and they have been the anchorage for the community’s people since long ago. It can be said that those are indeed the ‘living’ materials. We keenly realise our responsibility to engage with their retrieval.

Ogatsu Hoin Kagura will be performed at Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture in this autumn. The old documents which were rescued in this operation will be also made use of in this performance. On the other hand, many of the masks for the Kagura dance or other utensils were lost by the Tsunami.

For passing down the community’s culture which has been protected for about 600 years to the further future, it will be essential to have the support of many of you. Taking this opportunity, we would like you to share your support for the reconstruction of Ogatsu Hoin Kagura.

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

*Edo Period: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1603 to 1868.

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About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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