Showing posts with label Kagura. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kagura. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Uzume Mask

Uzume Mask

It has been a very long time since I finished any masks, but the last few weeks I have been hard at it. Most of my older blog posts that featured my masks no longer have photos as they were stored on a site I no longer use, so overthe next weeks I will be posting photos of my new masks.

This one is one of the smallest and is the kami Uzume, the female whose dance in front of the cave was instrumental in luring Amaterasu out. The dance is credited with being the mythological origin of kagura.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sada Shrine

Sada Shrine, located north of Matsue, was once the most important shrine in the Izumo region. Enshrined in the central honden are 5 kami, the main one being Sadano Okami, along with Izanagi and Izanami, and the pair Hayatamano and Kotosakano. Izanagi and Izanami are well known, and in Izumo, Hayatamano and Kotosakano, 2 kami associated with the "divorce" of Izanagi and Izanami are also fairly common. Little is known of the main kami though except he is known as the protector of the Shimane Peninsula. He was born in a nearby sea cave called kaganokukedo and some posts on that can be found here.

The right (north) honden enshrines the Imperial kami: Amaterasu, and her grandson Ninigi. The left honden enshrines Susano, and something called Hisetsu Yonchu, which I think means "hidden four poles", about which I can find no information.

Sada Shrine is one of the many shrines where the mass kami of Japan arrive in November during kamiarizuki, though it is widely reported that they all go to Izumo Taisha.

Sada Shrine is also home to the UNESCO registered Sada Shin Noh. a form of Noh-influenced kagura that is believed to have influenced satokagura nationwide.

When I first explored this area many years ago I found it interesting to klearn that the earliest known yayoi site in Izumo was found in this valley indicating perhaps that this is where the proto-Japanese first settled in the region which would explain Sada shrines importance.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Momiji gari


Went to a charity kagura event today and saw a dance I had never seen before, Momiji-gari.

The dance opens with three maidens dressed in gorgeous kimonos carrying sprigs of maple.


The dance is based on a Noh drama which itself was based on an older story set among the autumn leaves in what is now Nagano.

The group dancing was from northern Hiroshima, and one feature of Hiroshima kagura is that "human" dancers do not wear masks, rather make-up.


The dance was graceful and at times frenetic, and the blur of golds, yellows, and reds against the backdrop of autumn leaves was quite spectacular.


Next up we are introduced to Taira Koremochi, the great Heike warrior, who along with an aide has come to Nagano to destroy a demon that has been harassing the local people.


The heroes accept the invitation of the maidens to join their party and are repeatedly given sake until they fall into a drunken stupor.


Now the maidens reveal their true identity as the demons the heroes have come to slay and begin a dance in celebration of the inevitable doom of the heroes.


The transformation from maiden to demon is truly instantaneous.... one second the women are spinning around and in the next they have on the demon masks....... I certainly did not see it happen, and the audience erupts with applause at the slickness of the transformation....

As you can see in the photo, the masks are not held to the head by strings but are gripped between the teeth

to be continued

Monday, November 2, 2009

Miko-mai, or Miko Kagura

Today was the matsuri at Tsunozu. Last night was the all night kagura, but I was feeling a bit under the weather so didn't make it, but went there today to catch the mikoshi parade and the Miko mai.

Miko-mai is probably the most common and widely seen form of kagura in Japan, though its rare in my neighborhood. Most of the bigger shrines that have full-time staff and miko will perform it.

Here at Tsunozu the miko are 4 young elementary school girls. First the dance was performed inside the shrine at a ceremony for all the "leaders" of the village and matsuri. Later it was performed outside the shrine for all the assembled villagers.

Tsunozu really takes their matsuri seriously, with all the local kids getting the afternoon off school.

Unfortunately this year, just as the procession was beginning the heavens opened up and we were drenched in a downpour.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 2


For our next matsuri we headed up into the mountains to Mizuho, near the border with Hiroshima. Sekai Daijingu is a "New Religion", an offshoot of Omottokyo, and the head shrine is here in Iwami.


I don't know a lot about this religion, but one of the priests spent an hour chatting with me and the 2 points he stressed were that the kami worshipped are the "old" kami of Japan, the Sun, Moon, and Earth, and he stressed a disassociation from Shinto which he considered a version of the State Shinto which he linked strongly to the war.


Unlike a usual matsuri, here there were many groups each dancing once. The first up was Miho Kagura Dan, from northern Hiroshima. Hiroshima Kagura developed out of Iwami Kagura, but the costumes are a little different, and for the "good guys" Hiroshima Kagura doesnt use masks but make-up.


The dance they performed was Akko Den, another name for Kurozuka, a famous story taken from the Noh repertoire.


Its a popular dance especially among kids as it involves an evil white fox that devours people.


The dance involves several mask and costume changes as the fox transforms from its human form as a beautiful woman into its true form.

Before the kagura began there was a performance of a Taiko group from Oda.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Omoto Kagura

It is believed that the root of Japanese religion, AND the root of Japanese performing arts lie in shamanic trance. Shamanic kagura was once commonplace throughout Japan, but was suppressed by the Meiji government. Only one place in Japan still has traditional shamanic kagura and that happens to be the place I live. I will be posting a lot more on this subject as it is the focus of a lot of my research and there is almost nothing on it in English.


The focus of Omoto kagura is Omoto, or Omotojin, the local land-based kami. Up in Izumo it is called Kojin, and like Omoto is represented as a rope snake. There are about 60 sites in my area that are considered Omoto shrines, though only a few have shrine buildings. Omoto kagura is practised at a handful of shrines, each shrine working to a 5, 6, or 7 year cycle, so some years there is no Omoto kagura , some years several performances.


Omoto kagura is performed by priests, and in fact all the priests of the county take part. As in the old days, the villagers perform theatrical kagura during the intervals between the priests various dances.


The supreme importance of Omoto kagura to the area is indicated by the number of offerings on the altar. I counted more than 40 different things on the altar at this performance in Ichiyama, compared with less than a dozen at a normal ceremony.


The dance in the video is called Tsunanuki (rope-pulling) and is probably the most well known of the various dances. If an Omoto kagura is successful then someone will be possessed by Omotojin and will answer questions by the priests usually on such matters as the coming years agricultural cycle, upcoming dangers etc. The grandfather of a friend of mine became possessed by Omotojin on 5 different occasions in the last half of the 20th Century.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Iwaishima kagura

This short video is of a kagura performance on the small island of Iwaishima, or as some people say, Iwaijima, off the southern coast of Yamaguchi.

If you compare it to some of the other videos of Iwami Kagura, you will see some differences.

The music is different, and the costumes are much simpler.


This is the first dance of 33 that were performed over a 3 day period as part of Kannmai Matsuri held every 5 years.

The opening dance features Kojin, the local kami of the island, though the mask look a lot like a Tengu, or even Sarutahiko.

Kojin is equivalent to the kami Omoto in my area, and is known as an Aragami, "rough kami", though I prefer turbulent kami. In this dance the priest pacifies Kojin.


The kagura dances are performed in a temporary structure with grass roof and walls erected near the harbor


The priests come from northern Kyushu, which has its own kagura traditions, so I don't know whether these performances are from that tradition or the southern Yamaguchi kagura tradition.

The masks are wooden, and so are simpler than Iwami Kagura masks.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hiroshima Kagura

A couple of months ago we were driving along a backroad in SE Hiroshima on our way to Shikoku when we saw a small shrine at the side of the road with all the banners flying and the parking area full of cars, matsuri!!

We pulled in and were delighted to find kagura being performed.


The kagura in this area is related to Iwami kagura, but one noticeable difference is that the "heroes" don't wear masks but rather use makeup.


It was a very small shrine, but it had a kagura-den, which was in fact the largest building at the shrine. The audience was small, and mostly elderly people. The kagura group was from somewhere else in the region.


The steps down from the shrine to the kagura den were lined with shimenawa, creating a sacred space for the kami to descend to the performance. I asked the locals who were manning the stalls what the name of the kami was, but they didn't know so they suggested I ask the priest. He had been enjoying the O-miki (offering sake shared by the congregation and kami) and he admitted he had forgotten!


As is usual in the back country of Japan, the villagers were very friendly and we were treated as honored guests. They gave us a bunch of yakitori and a pack of the areas speciality, candied peanuts.

Visiting village matsuris is one of my favorite activities. There is no comparison to the crowded, tourist-filled events that are the famous city matsuris.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Red Hanya mask

Red Hanya mask

Hanya Mask Iwami kagura

For the past couple of years, I've been making masks in the Iwami Kagura style. Iwami kagura is the local form of sacred dance theatre that is almost unknown in the rest of Japan, but round here people are fanatical about it. My masks are of course for sale, so if interested, please contact me.

The masks were originally carved from wood, but about 100 years ago new methods using paper and ground seashells began to be used. Like most Japanese crafts, making masks involves dozens of steps and can take several weeks to complete.
As well as being used in kagura, the masks are also put up in the entrance of people's houses to drive away evil spirits and bad luck.

The Hanya is a female demon, and in the original story a woman fell in love with a priest, and, unable to consummate her love, her face became distorted with anger and jealousy. Some sources suggest the story originated in the Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji). The name "Hanya" comes from a certain gentleman named Hannyabo. He was a monk in the Muromachi Period ( 14th & 15th Centuries), and was a master mask-maker whose masks were really terrifying. There is a sense that the Hanya represents the anger and jealousy of any woman. If you have seen a Japanese wedding then you may have wondered about the meaning of the large hood that the bride wears. Its called a tsunokakushi, which means "horn hider".
The body language used to suggest someone is becoming angry or jealous is to put your hands to the side of your head with the forfingers extended to imitate horns.

To buy this or any other masks please email me.

I will be posting more images of my masks, and lots of posts on Iwami Kagura.

Blue Hanya

Regular Hanya

Purchase a selection of ema from GoodsFromJapan