Sambaso is an auspicious ritual dance of ancient origin which was intended to appease the gods and bring good fortune and fertility. The sambaso dance was performed at the beginning of the New Year at the start of the Kabuki season and before certain Noh plays. The dancer often wears a high striped hat with a sun disc on either side. He carries a fan and shakes a staff with bells (suzu). The rhythmic stamping of the dancer and the sound of the bells were thought to drive off demons. A figure of a sambaso dancer is an auspicious symbol of happy occasions.

The dance was also mimicked by trained monkeys and this kimono may have been made for a “year of the monkey” in the twelve year astrological cycle traditionally observed in Japan.

Images of stylized pine and bamboo branches bring to mind the decorations called kado masu that flank doorways during the New Year season that are meant to welcome the gods.

Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Krauss and Ann Marie Moeller