SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.19 (2023)

Importance of Leadership Observed in the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu Revival Process:

With a Focus on the Decisions Concerning Past Performances, Change and Renewal


Department of Comparative,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

ethnomusicology, folk performing arts, Rokusai Nenbutsu, transmission, individual, leadership, interruption and revival

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the importance of leadership in the process of reviving the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu. To that end, this paper focuses on the leader’s decisions, which can greatly impact the policies of the preservation organization, programs, and performances and determine how this performing art is revived. The authors assume that the decisions of a leader are driven by his responsibilities; these demonstrate the leader’s will and ability to lead the organization.

This paper investigates the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu, which has been passed down in the Katsura area of Kyoto, and Mr. N, who serves as the leader of a preservation organization for Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu. Rokusai Nenbutsu is a performing art that is said to have been established around the mid-15th century based on the concept of the “Six Ritual Days” (“Rokusai”) from Buddhist scripture and “Nenbutsu” faith. It is performed by chanting a Buddhist prayer while beating drums and gongs. It developed and became a performing art in its own right in the mid-Edo period, incorporating other types of performing arts such as Noh, lion dance, and Gion music. In Kyoto, there are 14 Rokusai Nenbutsu performing groups at present; one of them is the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu, which ceased activities for 14 years but resumed in 2019 with the help and support of the Katsura residents. Mr. N, the leader, is a central figure in the management of the preservation organization; furthermore, as one of its experienced members from before the 14-year interruption, he is also one of the people responsible for teaching participants, including children. He was essential to the revival of the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu, and his decisions, which can be seen throughout his activities, have greatly influenced its revival and transmission.

First, this paper summarizes how the respective individuals were positioned and perceived in theory in the transmission of music and performing arts in ethnomusicology and Japanese folk performing arts research. Next, Mr. N’s decision to “go back to the old performances” is discussed. In order to find the differences between earlier and current performances, analysis of old sound sources, performances before the 14-year interruption, and current performances was conducted. In particular, how these differences can be attributed to Mr. N’s decision to “go back to the old performances” was investigated. Furthermore, the authors addressed the reasons and points of view behind some of his decisions, including the revival of programs and creation of new performances and programs. Finally, Mr. N’s background of and his experiences with Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu are described in detail.

The following three points are presented in this paper. First, Mr. N demonstrated leadership not only through his decisions based on past performances and “going back to the old performances,” but also his commitment to passing down changes and to renewal. Second, the leadership of an influential person is particularly important in the face of threats to the continuity of performances and difficulties associated with the desire to pass down a performing art to future generations. Third, in some instances, preservation and revival of the Katsura Rokusai Nenbutsu, however, do not necessarily depend on the decisions of certain individuals and their leadership.