Japan’s tsunami-hit towns battle to sustain folk arts

The Urahama district of this northeastern Japanese coastal city had for centuries marked religious ceremonies, and mourned their dead, with a dynamic sword dance by masked men, accompanied by drums and flutes.

But everything changed after the March 11 tsunami tore into Japan’s northeastern coast, sweeping away homes, performers and precious equipment in coastal areas, like Urahama, that had long treasured their traditional performing folk arts.

Now, people in many of the tightly-knit coastal communities fear the disaster may prove to be the final blow for some 100 troupes that had already been struggling to survive as the towns where they were based aged and young people left to seek work.

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