Showing posts with label Ichiyama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ichiyama. Show all posts

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Month of Little Sleep part 1


For me, the month of October has to be "The Month Of Little Sleep". In our area the rice has been harvested and now it is time for matsuri, and around here matsuri means all night kagura. Every village has their own matsuri and there are some I try to visit every year as well as many I have not had time to visit yet.... the first for me this year was saturday night in Ichiyama...


Got there around 10pm and the Iwato dance was just starting....


Next dance was Hachiman with the almost obligatory demon/hero battle.... I keep rooting for the demons but they never win.....


Next up was a ceremonial dance, Kenmai, which means "sword dance" but involved no swords. It was seperated from the sword part of the dance which is performed at Omoto Kagura.....


Next up was Jimmu, a dance based on the exploits of the mythical first emperor of Japan who subjugated the various clans and tribes of Western Japan in his invasion from Kyushu to kansai....


Next up was Kakko, a dance about a comedic figure who steals a sacred drum and attempts to unlock its power.....

Around 2:30am,  we took our leave of the good folks in Ichiyama and started to walk towards home...

More information about these dances, including videos, can be found by clicking on the labels of this post...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Iwami Kagura Museum


The Iwami Kagura Museum is located in what used to be the village elementary school in Ichiyama, but now is home to the village community center.

Entrance is free.

There is an extensive collection of masks.


As well as other implements and accessories used in kagura,


including the richly, decorated costumes.


Most of the museum concentrates on Omoto Kagura, the shamanic dance that is now only performed in our local area.


The centerpiece is a replica of the ritual space wherein Omoto Kagura is performed.

There is an extensive collection of videos that can be viewed as well as a library of books on kagura as well as other materials, play books, etc.

A real gem of a museum, free, and rarely visited...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 4


Ichiyama Hachimangu is a much bigger shrine than the one we just visited over the river in Eno. We come to most matsuris at Ichiyama as a friend, Toshi, dances there.


When we got there they were still dancing Iwato.


Toshi dances the character Ame no Koyane, the mythical ancestor of the Nakatomi. Its quite a hard part to dance as Koyane is an old man so the dancer must move and dance with bent legs all the time.


Toshi danced in the next dance too, which must have been tough as kagura dancing is a hard workout. He played Hachiman's sidekick in the Yumi Hachiman dance.


Around 2 a.m., not long after the demons entrance we headed off to the next matsuri....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

2009 Ichiyama Kids kagura festival

We went over to Ichiyama last night for the annual Kids Kagura Festival. Each year there are fewer and fewer kids performing. Partly thats due to the village losing population to the cities, but a friend suggested that because Ichiyama still dances the older, slower 6-beat style that some kids from the village dance with other groups that dance the more exciting 8-beat. I think it is due to the commitments that Japanese kids have to their school clubs and brutal exam system. Japanese kids get very little free time nowadays.


The video is from the Iwato dance. Koyane, mythical ancestor of the Nakatomi, who became the Fujiwara, and Futotama, mythical ancestor of the Imbe Clan, perform rituals, unsuccessfully, to entice Amaterasu out of the cave.


Uzume's dance, considered to be the mythical origin of all kagura, is successful in enticing the hidden sun out of her cave.


The arrival of the demon,... here in the Hachiman dance, is always fun!


As usual we had a very enjoyable time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kagura dancer


One of the things that attracts me to Iwami kagura is the sheer dedication and professionalism of the dancers, though in fact there are no professionals, they are all amateurs.

These shots are of my friend Tetsuhide dancing the purification dance as part of last years Omoto Kagura at Ichiyama.


He's been dancing kagura for over 40 years, and all three of his sons are also kagura dancers. During the week he is a travelling salesman, and on the weekends he helps out in his families business, the village liquor store.


Kagura is performed primarily as entertainment for the kami, but in one sense the dancer also becomes the kami. The dancers hold various kinds of torimono, objects into which the kami descend. For this dance he is using a fan and a large nusa, a type of ceremonial wand.


The regular purification dance with 4 dancers was performed before this one, which is specific to Omoto.

Outside of my local area, Iwami, it is rare to find anyone who knows what kagura is, and yet it is the root of Noh, Kabuki, and other performing arts in Japan.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gozamai The mat dance Izumo Kagura

Gozamai The mat dance Izumo Kagura

I have only ever seen this dance twice, and both times it was by the Ichiyama Kagura Group at an Omoto Kagura performance.

The dance is performed by a single dancer, and begins with the rolled-up mat in one hand and bells in the other. Later the mat is unfurled and the dancer steps backwards and forwards through it then wraps himself in it and spins around. As the dance progresses the pace increases.

The dance originates from Sada Shrine up in Izumo, where the dance is performed once a year as part of replacing of the mats in the shrine.

Sada Shrine, one of the 3 most important shrines in Izumo before the ascendency of Izumo Taisha in the late Heian Period, is the home of Izumo kagura, one of 3 or 4 styles of kagura in Japan. It is generally believed that Iwami Kagura is derived from Izumo kagura.

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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ichiyama Kids Kagura Matsuri


Last night was one of my favorite matsuris. It was the Kids kagura matsuri in the nearby village of Ichiyama. We've been every year for the last 4 years, and as usual we had a great time.


I enjoy it partly because its great to see kids focus their energies on something other than video games, TV, or martial baseball, but its also enjoyable because of the friendliness and hospitality of the village. Of course free sake is a draw, as well as 50yen yakitori! The first dance (photo above) is always the purification, Shioharae, and this is where the youngest kids start. This year the 4 dancers were all elementary school students.


The second dance, the welcoming the kami, was performed by 2 10 year old boys who were a little more seasoned than the first 4.


In between the dances the kagura group leader introduced some of the new costumes the group had acquired. They had received a grant from a foundation in Tokyo. The outfit above cost more than $8.000. Figuring in the pants, undershirt, wigs, masks, and other paraphenalia, a kagura dancer can be wearing up to $20,000 worth of costume. Mostly this is paid for by donations from the villagers.


The canopy above the dancers is called a tengai, and the kami descend through the paper streamers to "possess" the dancers. The dancer in the Hachiman dance above is 14 years old.


Of course, my favorites are the Oni,.. the demons, the ogres... with the continued depopulation of the villages, there are fewer kids to dance nowadays, so for some of the larger dances adults have to dance the parts.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Typical Japanese landscape 4


For most of the year dawn finds Japan's steep valleys filled with mist.
This photo was taken on an early morning hike in the hills above Ichiyama village

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Typical Japanese landscape & anaguma update


This is a fairly typical shot of the Japanese landscape. I took it a couple of days ago on my trip up to Togawa. About 65% of Japan is forested mountains. In the distance you can see the roofs of Ichiyama. The lighter green down below are the rice paddies. Summer is my least favorite season in Japan, visually-speaking. Grey, green, and brown is the palette. The wet air and overhead sun makes a very monochromatic view. In the winter you have strong shadows and when there is snow, strong contrast. In the spring there are a multitude of shades of green from the new growth, and colors from the blossoms. In the fall you have blue skies, low sun making shadows, and the reds, browns, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves.


Stepped outside my front door yesterday and right in front of me were one of the local feral kittens and a juvenile badger (anaguma). They were studying each other inquisitively about 50 cms apart, no hackles raised. Unfortunately the badger ran off due to my intrusion, and all I could get was this one snap. It was not the badger I posted a video of recently , that was an adult, this was a juvenile about 30-35 cms in length. Why these usually nocturnal creatures are hanging out around my house during the day is a mystery.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The first dance in any Iwami Kagura performance is the Shioharae, in which the dancers purify the dance space in readiness for the kami. While there are nowadays performances of kagura put on in public spaces for tourists, the home of kagura is in the shrine, and like many activities it is performed firstly for the kami.

This performance is by the Ichiyama kagura group in their home shrine of Ichiyama Hachimangu. The 4 colors worn by the dancers represent the 4 directions. Above the dancers is the tengai, a canopy of paper streamers. The kami descend through these streamers into the dancers.

Kagura dancers hold various torimono, objects through which the kami pass into the dancers. In this dance the torimono are wands and metal rattles. Other common torimono are fans and swords. The dancers create mandalas with their movements, am influence from esoteric buddhism by way of Shugendo.

The dance lasts about 40 minutes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A walk along the Yato River


The Yato River starts at about 900metres up in the mountains of the Mizuho Highlands, right where there is a small ski area. It then travels 30K until it reaches the Gonokawa River and enters it on the opposite bank to my village. One of the first walks I took when I moved to this area was along the Yato, hoping to reach the source in one day. Walking upriver I passed through Kawado, Oda, and Ichiyama. After Ichiyama the river does a couple of S-bends, and on the outside curves it is deep and still (above photo).


Next comes the small village of Yato, and a short distance after that Yato Dam. At 44metres in height, its not a huge dam. Built in 1958 its main purpose was to stop flooding downstream. It also supplies drinking water to the villages downstream and generates some hydroelectric power. Behind the dam the artificial lake stretches like 2 narrow, windy, crooked fingers. It's called Sakurai Lake as the Yato river valley has been known as Sakarai-go since the 8th Century. It's a great place to walk as the road has no traffic and the banks of the lake are uninhabited. In the winter thousands of ducks come from Siberia and settle on the lake.


As I got closer to where the "lake" ends and it becomes a river again the light of the low winter sun came streaming across and through the forest illuminating a scene of glorious fall colors. After passing through a small, sleepy village I reached a main road, and in a few kilometres it and the river turned 90 degrees and went along a long straight valley. High up in the mountains running parallel to the river runs the Hamada Expressway whose concrete purpose seems to be to bring hordes of tourists from the urban conglomeration around Hiroshima to the fine, sandy beaches of Shimane in the summer.


In the town of Ichiki stands a curiosity. A small temple lies literally underneath the expressway, and on one of the massive concrete towers that support the expressway is a relief of a giant cedar tree. Before the expressway was built there stood a giant cedar tree in the grounds of the temple. Often at shrines, and sometimes at temples one can still find these ancient giant trees, many more than 1,000 years old. This particular beauty stood directly in the path of the intended expressway, so was chopped down and memorialized in concrete. Somehow poignant and ironic.


I only made it a few more kilometres before the river turned up the mountain and became much steeper. The day was getting late, and my tired legs did not relish a steep climb, so I ended short of my hoped for destination.
One sight I saw a lot on this and most other walks I make around the countryside is abandoned houses. One often reads that Japan is a small, overcrowded country, and thats why most people live in very small concrete boxes, but that is a bit of a lie. The cities are very crowded, and most Japanese live in cities now, but the countryside is filled with thousands and thousands of big, empty houses. Problem is no-one wants to live in the countryside. Whereas in Europe and the U.S. many people want to escape the cities and live in the countryside, but can't afford to, the Japanese countryside continues to depopulate. People seem to WANT to live in the cities.