Art on Tuesday: Lion Dance


This ukiyo-e was painted in 1934 by one of my favourite Japanese painter, the famous Itô Shinsui 伊東 深水 (1898-1972).

This lady is performing the Lion Dance literally named 鏡獅子 Kagami jishi (Lion Dance) 1934.

Lion dances are a symbol for new beginnings. Traditionally they are performed twice a year at a dance celebration at a Shintô shrine. But they are also part of theatre plays like in Kabuki. It is meant to chase away the evil spirits and to bring good luck.

In Japan these dances occur normally in January at New Year’s Day and during the spring season along with the cherry blossom festivities.

Yasujiro Ozu 小津 安二郎 made a film about the Kabuki called Kagami jishi, where a lion dance is performed by the Kabuki actor Omoye Kikugoro IV in 1936. It is around the same time as this ukiyo-e was painted.

On YouTube you can see the movie and get an impression of the music and dance.

8 thoughts on “Art on Tuesday: Lion Dance

  1. It’s very interesting that you mention the lion dances as a symbol for new beginnings, as ukiyo-e artists were reinventing themselves around the 1930’s with influence from the west and waning popularity at home. You can really see this reinvigorated style in her face and anatomy.

    • This is a very interesting aspect of the ukiyo-e art development! I chose this piece of art because I am very much interested in the history of Taishô and early Shôwa.

      • It just happens that I’m teaching a little community class right now about art exchange between Japan and the West, and I’m presenting a little Taisho era art next week. It’s really easy to get carried away on that topic, though! So many interesting pieces out there.

  2. I am often amazed at the breadth and depth of the Japanese culture and its arts.This reminds me that all theater grew out of religious beliefs. And what beauty in the painting. What beauty.

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