New Year Japan Shishimai

January is a festive month in Japan. Moreover, it is one of the driest months of the year and probably the sunniest in Winter.  Between the weather and the festive atmosphere Japan is a great place to be in the first weeks of the New Year. There are many traditional events in the month of January as the New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year. Among them is shishimai…

Shishimai

Shishimai Japan
Shishimai lion dance performer

In English Shishimai is most commonly translated as a lion dance. A person dresses up in a red mask, usually made of lacquered wood, with white straggly hair and wearing a green gown. The mask often has a lower jaw that can be articulated. The green gown sometimes has 2 people under it, one who wears the mask and one who manipulates the movements of the tail end.  The dance is performed at various events throughout the year, but New Year’s is the most popular time for the dance.  It is thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, especially if the lion bites your head.

Shishimai in Saitama Prefecture

Shishimai bites at the head for good luck

There are many places you can see Shishimai in January in Japan. This post includes 40 places you can see the lion dance in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, during the New Year period. The lion dance can be seen in various places, such as at Dezome Shiki, shrines, malls and even restaurants, hotels and hot springs:

At a hot spring

  1. Tokigawa, Tamagawa Onsen

Each year, the Showa Retro Tamagawa Onsen have a shishimai performance. In 2024, it will be on January 1st from 3 pm:

At a hotel

  1. Ogose, New Sunpia Hotel

The New Sunpia Hotel in Ogose have a very special traditional shishimai event on New Year’s Day. It is performed in the lobby from 9 am. It is open to the public and is a free event. Official event page. They also have a free taiko performance on the same day at 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm too.

At a restaurant

  1. Kawagoe, Fukutomi
New Year food at Fukutomi Kawagoe

For many years we enjoyed the experience of Shishimai at a kaiseki restaurant in Kawagoe; Fukutomi.  The rooms in the kaiseki are private and the lion dance performer and another traditional performer come into the room accompanied by a traditional Japanese flute player. When my older two were smaller they were terrified of the lion, but they have become accustomed over the years. The Lion Dance performer bites at the heads of the adults, or children who are not too scared, to bring extra luck for the coming year. It is a very interesting and unique experience.

At a Shrine or temple

  1. Kasukabe, Choshiguchi Katori Shrine
  2. Kumagaya, Komiya Shrine
  3. Niiza, Niiza Kannon

Apart from restaurants, shrines often also have shishimai performances over New Year’s (and at other times of the year). One shrine that is particularly famous for the Shishimai performance in Saitama is Choshiguchi Katori Shrine in Kasukabe. The shishimai performance at Choshiguchi Katori shrine is held 3 times a year with the first mid January annually. In 2024 it will be on Sunday January 14th. Another one that is relatively famous, in Saitama Prefecture anyway, is the Lion Dance of Tajima. But that is not on the list, because that is on in the middle of March annually.

But there are also several performances at shrines and temples around the country on New Year’s Day. In Saitama, for example, you can see shishimai at Komiya Shrine in Kumagaya on New Year’s day. Moreover, at Niiza Kannon you can see shishimai daily between January 1st and 3rd at 10.15 am and again at 3.15 pm. The performances are usually about an hour long. In Kawagoe, there are performances at Kawagoe Hachimangu. See the Kawagoe paragraph for the Hachimangu details.

At a mall

A lot of malls put on a Shishimai performance on New Years Day or early in the New Year. For example, I’ve included sixteen places you can see a Lion Dance performance in Saitama Prefecture on:

New Years Day

  1. Saitama City, Cocoon City – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm, for about 30 minutes each time. And also at the same times on January 2nd too.
  2. Saitama City, Aeon mall Yono – 11.30, 12.30, 2.30 and 3.30, 15 minutes each time.
  3. Kawaguchi, Aeon mall Kawaguchi Maekawa – 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm, 30 minutes each time.
  4. Kasukabe, Aeon mall Kasukabe – 12 noon, 2 pm and 5 pm
  5. Ageo, Ario Ageo – 1.30 pm and 3 pm
  6. Soka, Akos Soka – 11.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3 pm
  7. Koshigaya, Koshigaya Laketown – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm
  8. Okegawa, Benibana Walk – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm
  9. Fukaya, Ario Fukaya – 1 pm and 3 pm
  10. Kuki, Ario Washinomiya – 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm.

January 2nd

  1. Toda, Aeon Mall Kita-toda – 12 noon and 2 pm.
  2. Ageo, Aeon Mall Ageo – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.
  3. Tokorozawa, Waltz Tokorozawa – 10.30 am to 12.30 pm.
  4. Hanyu, Aeon Mall Hanyu – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.
  5. Aeon Town Yoshikawa – 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.

January 6th

  1. Saitama City, Mare Musashi Urawa – 10.20 am, 1.20 pm and 3.30 pm.
  2. Yoshikawa, Aeon Town – 11 to 11.30 am and again from 2 to 2.30 pm.
  3. Saitama City, Aeon Mall Urawa Misono – 1 to 1.20 pm and 3 to 3.20 pm.

Other dates in January

  1. Tokorozawa, January 8th at Tokorozawa Sakura town between 11 am and 3 pm.

At a Dezome Shiki

The Dezome Shiki have been cancelled due to the Noto Peninsula earthquake.

  1. Kawajima
shishimai at a dezome shiki in Saitama japan
Shishimai at a Dezome Shiki in Saitama Prefecture Japan

Dezome Shiki is another interesting New Year event in Japan. Moreover, as far as I know it is unique to Japan. Dezome Shiki is a type of a show that displays firefighters prowess. The acrobatics on bamboo ladders by firefighters, not street performers, is a highlight of most of the Dezome Shiki. But some of them have shishimai performances on the day, such as this one in Kawajima town. However, please note that several dezome shiki have been cancelled in 2024 as fire brigades around Japan help with the Noto Peninsula earthquake relief.

Find a Dezome Shiki near you.

At a New Year Festival

  1. Hidaka, New Year Festival
  2. Tokorozawa, New Year Culture Festival

There are New year ‘festivals’ around Japan at different dates in January. Just one example; the Komagawa Station New Year festival. It is on Saturday January 6th and Sunday January 7th 2024. As part of the festival they have shishimai performances on Sunday from 10 am to 10.30 am. More information in the Japanese language. There is also a New Year festival with Shishimai in Tokorozawa, at Yot-toko on public holiday Monday January 8th. More information in English.

At a Children’s Community Play Center

  1. Ageo, Kodomo no Shiro

I’m sure there are other community play centers that have shishimai performances at New Years, but one of the better known ones is at the excellent Kodomo no Shiro in Ageo. In 2024, the performance will be on from 11 am to 11.30 am. More information about the play center.

At a Graveyard

  1. Tokorozawa, Yasuragi no hana no sato

Only in Japan! I really love how the graveyards and cemeteries in Japan welcome the living! It is not unusual, at all, for graveyards to host events. At Yasuragi no hana no Sato in Tokorozawa, they have shishimai performances, with taiko, on Friday January 5th. They also have mochitsuki on Sunday January 7th. Official event page.

Kawagoe Shishimai Performances

There are several places you can see Shishimai in Kawagoe during the first few days of the New Year. Such as:

  1. Renjakucho between 10 am and 3 pm on January 1st.
  2. Motomachi Ichome between noon and 3 pm and Motomachi Nichome between 11 am and 3 pm on January 1st.
  3. Pepe Honkawagoe between 9.45 am and around 1.15 pm on January 1st.
  4. Suehirocho between 10 am and noon on January 1st.
  5. Kawagoe Hachimangu between 10.30 am and 1 pm on January 1st and 2nd.
  6. Nishi Kosemba on January 2nd.
  7. Mime Concourse between 11 am and 1 pm on January 3rd.
  8. Koedo Kurari between 10 am and 3 pm on January 3rd.
  9. Asahicho Sanchome between 8 am and 3 pm on January 3rd.

Have you seen a shishimai performance during your time in Japan? If not, would you like to?

20161221shishimai-lion-dance-at-new-years-kawagoe

2 Comments

    1. Author

      The excitement is building here. I’ve grown to love Japanese New Year as much, if not more, than Christmas!

Comments are always appreciated...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.