The Kochi Matsuri (literally, in-the-river festival) replicates the triumphal return of the naval forces of Kumano after their victory in the Gempel War of 1180-1185. Held at the Koza River in the summertime, this 25-day event is an ode to the beauty of Kumano. To the sound of a conch shell, three beautifully decorated boats begin to circle around a small island on which the local deity is said to reside, then the boatmen sing. The excitement mounts with the pulsing rhythm of the region's traditional Koza lion dance, performed along the banks of the Koza River. The two-person lion dance, with its large lion's head, is performed in the distinctive Daikagura style, it includes more than ten different dances, including Tsuruginomal (Sword Dance), Nusanomai (Offering Dance), and Ranjishi (Wild Lion Dance). Evidence of ancient dancing styles passed down through the ages can be seen, for example, in the footwork of the performers. This event is said to be the origin of the lion dances performed throughout the region.
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