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Ever-evolving Okinawan Opera: Kumiodori

Kumiodori is a performance with songs and dances which was created to entertain Chinese envoys (called ‘sapposhi’) in the early 18th century by Chokun Tamagusuku, who was the government official in charge and who in modern times would be considered the producer.


More than 70 works have been created based on the history of Ryukyu and old folklore. Kumiodori is a national intangible cultural asset alongside noh and kabuki, and it is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. As one of Japan’s classical performing arts, kumiodori welcomes and entertains people from all over the world.  

Nido Tekiuchi
(The Vendetta of the Two Sons)

This is one of five plays by Chokun Tamagusuku. This story, also known as Gosamaru Tekiuchi (The Vendetta for Gosamaru), is based on a great event of the 15th century, the “Gosamaru-Amawari Revolt.” 


Tsurumatsu and Kamechiyo, Gosamaru’s now fatherless sons, head to Katsuren Castle to kill Amaohe (also known as Amawari) and avenge their father’s death. 


The story goes that the brothers pretended to be dancers to get close to Lord Amaohe to execute the plan.

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Shushin Kaneiri

On his way to the Shuri Castle royal government, a handsome young man called Wakamatsu Nakagusuku stops at a woman’s house to ask to stay overnight as it is getting too dark to travel. 


The woman sees this as a good opportunity to seduce Wakamatsu, but he refuses. He runs away from the woman who is making a pass at him aggressively, and he seeks help and hides in a temple in Sueyoshi.


The woman who has developed strong feelings for Wakamatsu chases after him to the temple, and turns into a demoness.

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Photo gallery

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Tonae (rhythmic lines or script)

One of the features of kumiodori is that lines are spoken differently depending on the character’s status or role.


Another great feature is that the tone of voices spoken are at the same pitch as the sanshin (stringed instrument). 

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Other Okinawan performing arts can be found here:

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