If we consider the dance and songs that are passed down to the present time, it can be thought that Nishimonai Bon Dancing was formed into the present shape in modern times, in the Edo Era. However, if we consider the existence of the surrounding Jishu ruins, there is a possibility that folk events that would be the parent of Bon Dancing are formed from the end of the Muromachi Era to the Sengoku Era. Historical documents that prove this history for certain have not been found, so we can only consider oral traditions and various historical materials.


Oral traditions of the origin -A Dance to hold a mass for the spirit of the Onodera Family

There are several oral traditions of the origin in Nishimonai Bon Dancing.
The most famous one is ;
* “After the Onodera Family, the lord of this region was destroyed by Yoshimitsu Mogami in Keichou 5 (1600), the descendants of the Onodera Family danced the Mouja Dance to console the spirits of the ancestors, and this is the origin. “(encyclopedia)
* In Keichou 6 (1601), the family of Shigemichi Onodera, the lord of Nishimonai castle were destroyed. The native retainers danced Mouja Dance in the grounds of Housenji Temple (Nishimonai Teramachi) to recall the master during the ancient Bon season; August 16`20, 5 days”

The strong opinion is as follows; The dance of Bon memorial service that the retainers of Onodera Family danced to recall the master was considered as the basis, and this joined with Hounen Dance and became the present Bon Dance. Similar oral tradition of origin exsists all around the country, but Sengoku Era is actually an era when Mitama Belief, and Nembutu Dance; something to console the spirit of the people who died repressing the anger; became popular and we cannot treat these as fictitious stories.

Also, according to historical evidence, Onodera Family of Senhoku (Northern part of Akita Prefecture) was stationed to Tsuwano of Sekishu (Shimane Prefecture) after they were destroyed by Mogami Family in the end of Sengoku Era. An elegant Bon Dance (Nembutu Dance) that wear the mask over the head remains also in Tsuwano, so we can imagine a lot about the relation between the two.

Besides the above story, there are oral traditions of origin that states as follows ; “In the Seiou period (1288`93) of Kamakura Era, a priest named Genshin Shounin prayed for the coming of Zao Gongen (The present Nishimonai Mitake Shrine), and had the people dance the Hounen Dance in the grounds of the shrine to pray for the good harvest. This Hounen Dance is the origin”” The dance of Ganshouke that was danced to mourn the Lord Goro Ohi who killed himself in the Nishimonai Castle is the origin” The latter story can be considered as a kind of oral tradition of memorial service that originate in Sengoku Era.
Jishu ruins that attract attention
An important historical material when considering the history preceding the history of Nishimonai Bon Dancing and its origin is the existence of Jishu Belief in the Middle Ages.

For instance, the existence of the “Jishu Itabei” shows that groups of Jishu followers existed around Ugo-chou and Nishimonai in the end of Kamakura Era. Furthermore, “Zenkoji shiki Sanzon zou” suggests the existence of Zenkohji Hijiri who is the Nembutu follower that precedes Jishu, and tells that Nembutu Belief has penetrated in this area already in the beginning of Middle Ages. The location where Jishu existed in the Middle Ages tends to be in the places that has urbane characters, so we can guess that surrounding areas of Nishimonai in those days had urbane characters from a rather early time.

The relation between Onodera Family, the ruler of Nishimonai, and Jishu also attracts attention. The original base of Onodera Family of Akita Prefecture is Onodera, Shimotsuke no Kuni (Tochigi Prefecture). Ippen Shounin, the founder of Jishu stopped at here on his journey around the country. This fact shows that Jishu Belief is active in this place. Even the Onodera Family itself manages the Jishu temple. Also, Inaba Onodera Family which corresponds to be the head family of Nishimonai Onodera Family came to believe in Kumano Hombou, and this fact shows that it has a relation with Kumano belief that has strong connection with Jishu.

Many oral tradition of origin of Nembutu Odori and Bon Odori in the whole country is related to the memorial service of vengeful ghosts, and many of them are considered that Jishu and Nembutu Hijiri made efforts to create and spread them. There is a possibility that Jishu and Nembutu Hijiri were involved in the oral tradition of origin of Onodera Family of Nishimonai, and there is an importance that cannot be settled simply as an oral tradition.



Ruins of Jishu belief in Nishimonai

“Nembutu in the night of funeral” Folk courtesy which is considered that the Jishu
Nembutu handed down to the present time.
“Honzon Amida Nyorai Wakiji” It is called the “Zenkohji-shiki Sanzon-Zou”,
and shows that a Nembutu Belief called
Zenkohji Hijiri which had close connection
with Jishu was handed down in this place.
“Myougouhi Danpen” This monument was carved in Gentoku 2
(AD 1330) and excavated at the foot of
Horimawari Mt.Ontake. This corresponds to
the period when Jishu belief was active, and
it is considered to be the Jishu Itahi (A
monument of belief that the Jishu believers
built in various places)
“Koumyou Shingonhi” It is located in the grounds of Nishimonai
Ontake Shrine. Koumyou Shingon was widely
used as a spell to calm the spirits of the dead
in the Middle Ages. Holding a mass for the
dead is the job of Jishu, and this is also
considered to be one of Jishu Itabei.

Further, in the places around Nishimonai, some ruins of Shugen-do remain besides Jishu ruins. The history of Shugen-do and its influence to Bon Dancing would be a research theme in the future, by the reason that it played an important part in the formation of folk entertainment in various places during the period between the Middle Ages to Modern Times.