Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kagura season is in full swing!

This is a scene from the Kakko-Kirime dance performed last night at the shrine in Kawado.


In the opening part of the dance an inept priest bumbles and fumbles his way around the stage in an attempt to find the correct spot to place a drum for a sacred ceremony. I saw this dance performed by 2 different dancers last night, and though both dances differed they both stressed the comedic element.


It's October, the rice has been harvested, and until the middle of November it is now Kagura season in the Iwami area. Every village will be holding it's annual matsuri, and here in Iwami that means all night kagura performances. Some places have a Kagura-den, a seperate building like an outdoor stage specifically for kagura, but most places round here perform it in the Haiden, the main hall of the shrine.

Last night we had the choice of 6 different shrines less than ten minutes drive away that were having all-night kagura. If we wanted to drive 20 minutes the number increases to 20 or so. I like to visit different shrines and see how the different groups interpret the dances, and there are still plenty of dances I haven't see yet.

The photo above is the Ichiyama shrine, where we went first. One of my friends is a kagura dancer there, so we've been often, but still I saw a dance that I hadn't seen before. For everyone attending there was also free food... piping hot bowls of oden, uden, and later onigiri.


The next shrine we stopped at was in Kawado. There will usually be a bonfire going all night at the matsuri,... something the kids like to play with and around. This is one of the few nights of the year when kids are allowed to stay up all night, though many crash out at some point only to wake up for the finale at dawn, the Yamata No Orochi dance.


If you've never seen Iwami kagura, then you've missed one of the most exciting of all Japan's traditional performing arts, and if you've never been to an all-night village matsuri, then you haven't experienced what I consider to be one of the defining experiences of life in Japan.


  1. Jake,
    The one thing I miss most about my time in Shimane is the Iwami Kagura. I used to love to go with the kids to see the Orochi and listen to the drums and flutes. Thanks for sharing the video.

  2. Hi Steve...
    Good to hear from you... I have lots more videos I will be posting :)

    I still believe that Iwami Kagura is one of the most underrated arts in Japan....

  3. Tabigo....

    Sorry, there will certainly be no Tokyo in this blog!!!

  4. Thanks for posting this. Very interesting and inviting. I'd love to check it out.

  5. ippei
    Please contact me if you want to visit and see some kagura.