Showing posts with label kanzui. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kanzui. Show all posts

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri part 8


This is the second half of a post on the Oeyama dance as performed at last years matsuri up in Kanzui, The first half can be found here.

The group of heroes dressed as yamabushi find their way to the demons lair and after convincing the demons that they are real yamabushi are invited to spend the night,


There are 4 heroes, and the boss demon and three aides, so a total of 8 dancers packed into the tiny performance space. The king of the demons is distinguished by his oversized mask.


The heroes share the drugged sake with the demons and when they are drunk the fighting begins, each hero putting paid to one demon.

The final scene is when the king demon is confronted by the main hero. But the demon has a trick up his sleeve,..... a demon spider....

I had not seen the spiderweb and spider used in the Oeyama dance before...


The hero of course defeats the spider and the demon and so the world is once again safe.....

It was now 3:30 am and the kagura would be going on for another 3 hours but I left as I felt I neede to put in an appearance at my own villages matsuri which was also being held this night....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 7


The next dance at last years all-night matsuri in Kanzui was Oeyama, a big production with an unusually large cast for a kagura dance so I will split it into two posts. the story is based on a Noh play of the same name which itself was based on a story in the Heike Monogatari. In the first scene the hero, Minamoto Yorimitsu, and an aide leave Kyoto on a mission to destroy demons that have been kidnapping and eating young women.  On the way they meet a tengu/yamabushi who tells them that the demon will not harm yamabushi so they should discard their armor and wear the garb of mountain priests. the tengu also gives them some drugged sake that will disable demons but not affect humans.

The next scene introduces a villager who works in the mountains as a woodsman.


The next scene introduces a princess who is found in the mountains washing bloodstained clothes in a stream. She was captured by the demons but her flesh was too tough and bones too large to be eaten so the demons kept her as a laundry maid.


She promises to guide them, now dressed as yamabushi, to the demons lair on Mount Oeyama.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 6


So, it's about one-thirty in the morning and the sixth dance of the matsuri begins, Daikoku and Ebisu.

There is not really a story, rather the two characters, both members of the 7 Lucky Gods of Japan, engage in pantomime.

Daikoku was originally a Hindu warrior deity, but in Japan by the 15th century he had become the jolly, pudgy character associated with wealth and good fortune. Hitting the people on the head with his magic mallet will bring them good fortune.

When Ebisu dances he often goes through the comedic routine of catching a Sea Bream.

Daikoku and Ebisu are often seen as a father-son pair through the association with Okuninushi (written with the same kanji as daikoku) and Kotoshironushi, seen as Ebisu.

What the kids in the audience have been waiting for is for the lucky candy that Ebisu throws out.....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 5

Suzukayama is another hero versus demon piece based on a Noh drama.
The hero is Sakanoue Tamuramaro who was given the title of shogun (barbarian defeating generalissimo) for his success in defeating the Emishi in eastern and northern Japan. I believe he founded the famous Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.


There are many variations on the story, but this version seems to be based on the version of the story that has the demon being a "dog demon". Other versions have the demon being invisible.

The demon lives in a cave on Suzukayama which is near Ise. Apparently it was quite a dangerous place for travelers.


What is interesting to note is how halfway through the dance the upper part of the costume is undone and drops to act like a flared skirt during the spinning. Thois last photo shows some of the acrobatics involved in the fight sequences.

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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kanzui matsuri 3

The third dance at Kanzui's annual all-night matsuri was the first theatrical piece of the evening, Yumi Hachiman. The dance is very common and most matsuris will perform it. the first part of the dance sees Hachiman introduce himself and strut his stuff....


Hachiman, also read as Yahata, was originally a kami from northern Kyushu but grew in influence and became associated with the legendary Emperor Ojin. Eventually adopted as the tutelary deity of samurai he is known as the god of war. Hachiman shrines are now very common, and by one method of calulating are the most common shrines in Japan.

The second part of the dance sees the demon make his entrance, strut his stuff, and then hachiman and he begin their combat.


There are two versions of the demons identity, the first simply has him as a demon from a foreign country plaguing the local villagers in north Kyushu. The second has him as a demon from the lower levels of Buddhist hell. As much of the buddhist content was purged from Iwami Kagura in the late 19th century, It would suggest that tghis version is older.

Not surprisingly, the demon is defeated by Hachiman using a bow and arrows, weapons especially associated with Ojin.

The young junior-highschool boy dancing hachiman did a good job. In larger kagura groups hachiman has an aide.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kanzui Matsuri 2

For various reasons I only managed to get to one matsuri this Autumn, so I thought I would post on each dance in a little more detail.

The second dance is kamimukae, the welcoming of the gods.


kagura, like other "entertainments" at shrines is put on primarily for the kami, but fortunately the kami enjoy the same kinds of things as we mortals. After the space has been suitably purified the kami are welcomed. This is a shinji, a ceremonial rather than theatrical dance and is usually danced by 4 dancers, though I haver seen it danced with a single dancer.


Here at kanzui it was danced by only three, and like some other shrines Ive been to it was presented by the youngest members of the troupe, and is usually one of the first dances learnt by beginners.


The kids were very nervous, its possible that this was the first time they had performed this dance publicly, and the leader was seated just offstage to offer prompts. 2 of the dancers were girls. In recent years girls have started to dance kagura, though as yet I have not seen any dance any of the theatrical pieces. Girls playing the instruments is far more common.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kanzui matsuri


October means matsuri, and matsuri means kagura!! usually by the middle of October I have been to half a dozen all-night matsuris, but this year because Ive been spending a lot of time on Shikoku, when I am back home I have too much work to catch up with so matsuris have had to take a back seat. But last saturday I did go up into the mountains to Kanzui....

kanzui is actually only a few kilometers from my village as the crow flies. there used to be a path connecting the two villages, but it has not been walked for many, many years. By road its about 10 kilometers.

There is no "centre" to kanzui, no shops, its really just a scattering of mountainside farms along a narrow mountain valley. My kind of place.

I arrived about 10pm, and the dancing began a little later. At a usual matsuri the first dance is always a purification dance to purify the dance area in preparation of the kami to descend. usually this dance is the Shioharae, a ceremonial dance done without masks. Here at Kanzui the first dance was Akumabarai, a different type of exorcism/purification dance most commonly performed in the Bitchu area of Western Okayama and eastern Hiroshima.

It is danced by Sarutahiko, and consists of three sections. In the first video he is dancing with Gohei (wand) and fan. The objects carried by the dancers in kagura are called torimono, and traditionally they are objects through which the kami "enter" the dancers.

In the second video he dances with an Onibo, a "demon stick" usually carried by demons.

In the third video he dances with two swords. Ive read that in Bitchu kagura the sword dancing predominates and has developed into a wider variety of styles.

During the Edo period akumabarai would sometimes be danced at the head of a wedding procession to purify the road ahead .