Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 4

Its just about midnight at the small shrine in the mountain settlement of Kanzui not far from my own village. The annual matsuri got underway about 3 hours ago and the fourth dance starts, Michigaeshi, a not very common dance. A few more people arrive and now the audience just outnumbers the dancers and musicians.

Michigaeshi is a fairly typical 2 person dance, the hero and the demon, although the ending is most unusual.


The hero is the kami Takemikazuchi, a complex deity with connections to thunder, military might, and protection from earthquakes in his home area of Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture. He is also enshrined at the Fujiwara's home shrine of Kasuga in Nara where he is considered their tutelary deity. The Fujiwara ruled over the kashima area so either they adopted him from there or possibly brought him there. According to the Kojiki version of the Kuniyuzuri myth he was one of the kami sent to subdue Izumo, though Izumo records make no mention of him.


The demon is unnamed, though follows the classic pattern of being a flesh-eating demon harassing local villagers.

This third video clip shows the battle between the two. If you cant be bothered to watch all the videos, this is the one to watch.

The hero of course triumphs, but, in an unuusal twist does not kill the demon. Instead he offers him the possibility of redemption if he travels to Takachiho in Kyushu, site of the "descent" of the Yamato ancestors from heaven, and take part in the rice harvest there.

When I first came to Iwami and started watching kagura I remember several people telling me that this was their favorite dance precisely because the demon is spared and not killed.


  1. The costumes are just incredible. I also enjoyed watching the drummers, esp. the man on the left who is essentially playing his drum from the side. My arms would be ready to drop off after a minute or two of such energetic exertion.

  2. Hi Phil... the costumes have masses of gold thread and can weigh more than 20k. Thats the way the taiko is played...