Shishi-odori, or deer dance, is performed in various parts of Iwate. There are various stories concerning the origin of the dance, such as: that it was to pray for a deer that was killed; that it imitated the movement of a wild deer; that it was a ritual associated with Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara, etc.
There are many shishi-odori programs, but they can roughly be classified into 2 groups: the taiko-odori programs are danced with taiko drums and are mostly performed in southern Iwate, while the maku-odori programs are danced without taiko drums and are mostly performed in northern Iwate. The late Taro Okamoto, one of the most renowned Japanese artists, once saw a dynamic taiko shishi-odori performance, and compared its rhythm to “dry jazz.”
Shishi-odori is performed at the Hanamaki Festival, the Tono Fall Festival, and at various events at some hot spring inns. Shishi-odori is usually performed by 8 dancers; however, on August 16, the Dance of One Hundred Deer is performed at Esashi Fujiwara-no-Sato Heritage Park in Oshu City.