Matsubayashi (or Matsuhayashi) is a traditional performing art for New Year's celebration. Matsubayashi means hayashi (musical accompaniment) performed in matsunouchi (period that matsu kazari (pine decoration) is displayed in the New Year). Matsubayashi (松囃子) can be described also as matsubayashi (松拍子) or matsubayashi (松拍). It was popular during the Muromachi period. The word 'Matsubayashi' is a season word to express January.
While Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, who was exiled from the capital, Kyoto, stayed in the Shirohata-jo Castle of the Akamatsu clan in Harima Province, traditional performing arts were performed to comfort Yoshimitsu; after he went to Kyoto, the Akamatsu family began the custom of presenting traditional performing arts on January 13; which is described in "Mansai Nikki" (diary of Mansai, the priest). This custom spread throughout Japan from Kyoto, which is supposedly the origin of the Matsubayashi.
In Matsubayashi, not only full-time performers, including Shomonji (lower-ranked diviner) and sanjo (manor's area where people of the sanjo provided special skills to the imperial authority instead of rice tax), but also citizens in every class, including villagers and merchants, put on costumes todress up and visited Hana no gosho (residence of Shogun in Kyoto) or the lords called Shugo in each region; they performed the Classical Japanese dance and musical accompaniment and a congratulatory address was given. In return, money or textiles were given as a salary. In "Kanmon Nikki" (diary of Imperial Prince Sadafusa FUSHIMINOMIYA), there is a description of 'onna matsubayashi' (performance to cerebrate the new year), performed by merchants' wives from Shimogyo (south part of capital) at the Muromachi Imperial palace in 1437. In addition, feudal lords with their retainers also visited the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) government office to perform a dance for Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians").
From this aspect, it can be said that Matsubayashi is a kind of 'Kadotsuke' whereby performers play music in front of the gate of a house and are given money, or a kind of 'taste' of medieval performing arts, which is the origin of nenbutsu odori (dance while others say nenbutsu - Buddhist prayer) and shishimai Lion dance.
During the Edo period, Utaizome (first-song performance of the year), which was performed in Edo-jo Castle on the night of January 2 (later January 3) by feudal lords, came to be called the Matsubayashi, and this custom supposedly spread among the merchants.
Matsubayashi Onoh' (Noh - a Japanese drama and dance performance to cerebrate the new year), a significant intangible folk cultural asset performed in fall for an annual celebration at the Kikuchi-jinja Shrine located in Kikuchi City, has been well preserved as it is from the Muromachi period; as the 'Matsubayashi Onoh' has a part common to the Matsubayashi that has been passed down by Noh kanze-ryu school, it is believed that there is a strong relationship there between. Meanwhile, the Matsubayashi has also been preserved in the Hakata Matsubayashi Festival, the origin of the Hakata Dontaku Festival.