The islands of Okinawa that extended south of Japan once formed the Ryukyu Dynasty and had originally developed its own culture. Myths, legends and songs had been passed down not only in the court of the Dynasty, but also in the islands and villages. And all the people in Ryukyu Islands dedicated a dance and kyongin to the gods they worshipped.
When one experiences its culture, he/she would be reminded of the scenes of Ancient Japan, be impressed with the cultures of the Chinese Dynasty and Asian countries, and would even wonder why Okinawa has such a rich and fascinating culture, in spite of the tragic history it has.
This rich and fascinating culture had reached out to even the small islands of Yaeyama, far south of main islands.
People in Taketomi Island treasured it with loving care, and treated it as spiritual nourishment for their daily lives. Each culture has become Taketomi Island's own specialty and traditional entertainment.
All of the people who join the Tanadhui Festival experience the soul-stirring passion and the sense of solidarity amongst the participants. The energy, which has passed down from generation to generation, holds us all in the circle of humanity, united love and caring for each other.
There's no actual proof of when the festival started. The hypothesis shows that it might have started 900 years ago, which means around the 12th century, because inhabitants of the island had started agriculture and depended on it around that time. However we cannot simply say the beginning of the agriculture directly means the beginning of Tanadhui Festival. The proper deduction would be to think that "Tanthui" (same meaning as Tanadhui) had been introduced from Okinawa to Yaeyama islands. Then, the beginning of the festival might have been started more than 1500 years ago.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to know the origin of Tanadhui Festival, it is said that at the beginning it was taken place in each six On. The style of whole island celebrating the festival together could have started after the 17th century when the zodiac signs became widespread through Yaeyama.
The modern Tanadhui Festival can be divided into three periods.
|The first period started in 1903, when the poll tax was abolished, and ended in 1945, when the Second World War concluded. The abolition of the poll tax meant the abolition of the sovereignty of samurai (noble class), and people in Yaeyama were actually released from the old rules. At that time, Tanadhui Festival, was quite simple, although the old system was abolished and they won the freedom. They performed group dancing and court dancing. Later "Nioh" and "Soga Brothers" were adopted, but the costumes were unaffected and there was no roles for women.
|The second period began in 1946 after the war, and it ended in 1976, when the performance took place at the Natonal Theater. During this period, many people were returning from the war and island was seized with a sudden depopulation. After the war, the theatrical troupe called "the Subaru (the Pleiades)" was organized by youths from the war and they created a brand-new play style. Amid the 60s', the motto of the festival changed to protect and keep it from dying out. People started to think of Tanadhui Festival as a major festival on the island. In addition, it was also the time when people living in Ishigaki Island started joining the dedication performance due to the depopulation.
|The third period commenced in 1977, and continues now. With the performances at the National Theater as a turning point, people have started focusing more on the drama and costumes. They also got rid of the gaps between the dedication performances. The awareness of the people to keep their tradition has grown stronger, but at the same time, the festival has placed more emphasis on celebrating the health and prosperity of the island, rather than the original agricultural rituals. Even people living in the main island return to their home to join in Tanadhui Festival.
|One significant point about the Tanadhui Festival is that both Hazama and Nahji villagers compete in their performances. They never asked for any help from each other, even in the middle of the depopulation, but they did ask people in Ishigaki Island for help.
This rivalry must be the reason why the entertainment has been kept in a very high level. This competition can be witnessed more clearly before the Festival, when they are preparing for it, than during the Festival. "Seeing is believing."
Tanadhui Festival has been designated as an important and intangible cultural asset of Japan.
Please check the detailed schedule of this year's Tanadhui Festival on this website, in November of "A year of island life" page.
You can also check the detailed information about the events during Tanadhui Festival on the "NAPCOTI " (National Association for the Preservation of the Culture of Taketomi Island) website.
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