Bunta Sato and Matsuri festivals in danger (Japan)

Iwaki yama jinja shinto shrine
Bunta Sato


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Bunta Sato and his community festival

Bunta Sato, born in Tsugaru, is a community musician and a professional fue player. Bunta plays Tsugaru-bue, a traverse bamboo flute from the Tsugaru region (now known as the Aomori prefecture).

Bunta’s musical life has always been embedded in traditional community events and festivals which have hundreds of years of history. From the age of eight, Bunta has appeared at the 3 day -long Oyama Sankei(お山参詣)ritual event which became a significant national intangible folk cultural asset in 1984. Oyama Sankei involves processions of groups climbing the 6km to the summit of Mt. Iwaki 岩木山神社奥宮 (iwakiyama-jinja okumiya) to worship sunrise. As they climb, they chant and play tozan-bayashi (climbing hayashi) on Tsugaru-bue until they reach the entrance of the 1200 year old Iwaki shrine.



Bunta’s concern: Decline of Matsuri a

Bunta Sato is worried about the decline in young people's interest and participation in traditional folk festivals (“Matsuri). Many traditional folk events and festivals across Japan are at financial and structural risk. Some have succumbed to commercial pressures to become mere tourist attractions. Bunta thinks that this decline is partly due to the festivals’ conservative and exclusive attitudes to outsiders.

Tradition and Innovation -launch of NEO Hayashi project

To preserve something of the old traditions, Bunta, with like-minded community musicians across Japan, has created a CD-NEO Hayashiin 2020. This album comprises arrangements of traditional seasonal Matsuri festival music from across Japan as well as new compositions encouraging people to have a go with Hayashi music performed for Matsuri festivals.

Hayashi (囃子) is a musical accompaniment in traditional Japanese entertainment for Matsuri festivals. Hayashi is also an accompaniment to more formal performances including kabuki and Noh. The main instruments used are flutes (fue) and percussion- principally taiko drumming.

Bunta hopes that NEO Hayahsi will attract more diverse range of people to join in playing Hayashi so supporting continuation of the music and revitalising the tradition for future generations.

Bunta Sato’s Profile

Started participating the world-famous Neputa Matsuri in Tsugaru at the age of three. Started playing Tsugaru bue at the age of 9.

When he was eighteen, Bunta won the Oyama Sankei Tozan Bayashi contest. He went on to win it a further 6 times.

2007: Designed and delivered a project to promote Tsugaru-bue.

2009~2011: He organised the biggest scale Tsugaru- bue event on Neputa Matsuri Hayashi with 3,742 participants during which he tutored over 4,000 people. This has been officially registered as a Guinness World Record.

2012: Founded the Tsugaru-bue Club which organises workshops and concerts and encourages active learning and participation in local festivals.

2016: Tsugaru-bue tour in USA and Mexico. Started planning the 1st National traverse flute contest

2017: Concert in New York. Tsugaru-bue workshop in Singapore

2019: Concert in the Carnegie Hall, New York to great acclaim.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bunta organised numerous online workshops and discussions about Matsuri festival and Hayashi music.

article posted by:Akiko Yanagisawa, Mu:Arts