Mini Glossary

The Beginnings of Kunchi

The first Suwa Shrine festival was in 1634. On September 7th of the lunar calendar, courtesans Takao and Otoha dedicated the noh song Komee to the shrine. In the afternoon, the portable shrine was handed over to the Otabisho, and the main festival was held on the 8th. The portable shrine was safely returned to Suwa Shrine on the 9th.

The Origin of Kunchi

The general theory is that "Ku-nichi", September 9th of the Chungyang Festival and Chrysanthemum Festival, became "Kunchi".

Nationally designated important intangible folk cultural property

Nagasaki Kunchi's performance was registered as an important intangible folk cultural property of Japan on February 3, 1979. It is dedicated to the autumn festival of Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki City every year from October 7th for three days, and entertainments that have an important significance to the cultural traditions unique to Nagasaki are performed.

Odoccho or Odoricho: Dance town

The town which performs on a given year is called a dance town. Currently, there are 58 towns in total in Nagasaki City which are divided into seven groups that perform once every seven years, so it would take seven years to see all the performances of Nagasaki Kunchi!


Dance towns involved in the annual religious festivals of Suwa Shrine. During the Kunchi festival, their roles are diverse, such as helping at Suwa Shrine and Otabisho to serve Shinto rituals. Becoming Nenbancho occurs around four years after serving as a dance town.


In the olden days, the portable shrines of Suwa Shrine were carried by the people of each village of Nagasaki in turn, and the name of Nagasaki murashouya and Gouotsu protected the surroundings of the portable shrines.


Kunchi starts from entering the hut, Koyairi, on June 1st every year. At the beginning of Kunchi, the dance town leaders and performers receive a spiritual cleansing at Suwa Shrine and Yasaka Shrine to pray for a successful festival and start practicing their performances. In the olden days, a hut was built where performers were spiritually cleansed and devoted themselves to practice, so this day is called “entering the hut”.

Uchikomi: Greetings

After entering the hut, in the afternoon, the officers of the dance towns greet other dance towns, Nenbancho, and related parties with shagiri in an activity called Uchikomi.

Niwamise: Announcement

From the evening of October 3rd, the houses in each dance town will show the inside of the house and the garden to passers-by. Congratulatory gifts given to the performers, in addition to costumes, props, and musical instruments used in performances, are displayed usually facing the main street.

Niizoroi: Dress rehearsal

A dress rehearsal will be held on October 4th at several places in the dance towns to show the people involved that the practice has been completed and is ready to perform.

Kasaboko: Spinningumbrellas

At the head of the line of dance, towns are the Kasaboko umbrellas, which act as a placard for the town. The Kasaboko are elaborately decorated in connection with each town. They weigh between 130kg and 150 kg and since they are carried by one person, 2,500 to 3,000 coins are tied to the bottom of the mandrel to balance the top and bottom. The cloth that hangs around the Kasaboko is called Tare or Sagari.

Dashimono: Performances

Each dance town is headed by the Kasaboko umbrella of the town and dedicates various kinds of unique performances to the shrine.They are collectively called Hounoodori, or votive dances, and are roughly classified as follows:


Of the various dances, thehonodori,or main dance,refers to traditional Japanese dance because it is the dance of Honchou and the dance of Honte.There are various performances depending on each town, such as the Nagauta dance Oranda Manzai.

Hikimono: Boat-style floats

Many boat-style floats are used in the festival, such as Japanese riverboats, Chinese boats, dragon boats, warships, trading boats, Dutch ships, and Spanish and Portuguese ships. Although it is not a boat, the whale-style floats of Yorozuya-machiare also included.

Katsugimono: Carried props

Performances by many bearers, such as Kokkodesho and Shachidaiko drums, move forward and backward and turn around, but in some performances, bearers throw large carried props called Katsugimonointo the air, clap their hands, and then catch the Katsugimono again with one hand.

Torimono: Parades

The parades have a splendid stylistic beauty and include feudal lords, soldiers, warrior monks, ozatsuma, and kozatsuma. Aside from the Anio-san parade, based on a Vietnamese princess who married a Nagasaki tradesman, many Torimono have now been stopped.

Niwasakimawari:Performing in town

After completing the performances at a designated venue such as Suwa Shrine, each dance town will go around Nagasaki City center.Niwasakimawari congratulates the business establishments, government offices, and private houses in the city by presenting short dances with musical accompaniment at front doors, storefronts, and gates in their honor.

Shagiri: Music

Nagasaki Kunchi's shagiri is a unique melody that uses flutes and taiko. The tune will change depending on where it is being played. It is performed when Kasaboko is spinning or when the dance town moves to another location. When the people of Nagasaki hear the sound of shagiri, they become excited, and cannot wait for Kunchi to begin. A Nagasaki person who has moved to another town becomes nostalgic and excited when they hear Shagiri.


During Niwasakimawari, a forerunner will deliver a greeting card called a Teijyofudaand announce the performers will arrive soon.

Hana and Hanaonrei

The place which received a Teijyofuda hand over a paper called hana with their name and address written on it, and an envelope containing a donation for the performance will be delivered to the town office of the dance town at a later time. All donations for Kunchi performances are called Ohana. The hana is a symbol of Kunchi, and the harmonious use of red and green for the hana paper is beautiful. When this is displayed at stationery shops, it feels like Kunchi will soon begin.


Generally, performers give Makimono as a return gift to the people who have given donations. Town leaders and performers also distribute these gifts to audiences before a performance. The gifts consist of Japanese towels dyed with designs associated with the town’s symbols and performance and are considered lucky.

Kakegoe: Cheers

There are unique meanings to the cheers made by Kunchi audiences:


Used to ask for an encore when a performance has left the stage. The audience calls, “Mottekoi, Mottekoi” repeatedly.


Used when the encore is done, meaning,“Again!”


Used when Kasaboko turn, meaning “make a big circle and turn magnificently”.


“Yoiyaa!”, a cheer of approval, is used when the performer acting as the captain of a fishing boat float throws their net and catches fish, or when a Kasaboko turns bravely.