Showing posts with label shoki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shoki. Show all posts

Friday, April 16, 2021

Some Art at Horakuji Temple


Buddhist temples in Japan, like temples, shrines, and churches all over the world, are often repositories of a lot of art. Some temples have a little in the grounds, ornamenting the architecture, and inside on the aktars, etc. Some however are rich in artworks amd can be like visiting a museum or gallery.

It can be quite bewildering trying to know exactly what you are looking at. The massive array of deities, buddhas,  and other characters on display can be obscure. I myself spent my first decade in japan primarily visiting shrines, and have a pretty good grasp of kami and such, but it was not until I started walking the pilgrimages that I started to take note of Buddhist related figures, and while some I am pretty sure of being able to identify, I am by no means an expert.

This third phot I am pretty sure is Shoki, a Daoist demon-quelling figure. A lot of Daoism was imported into Japan through Buddhism, though there was probably some before that. Much of what is called shinto has roots in daoism though it is often referred to as "Chinese folklore". Shoki is well known to people in Iwami because he is the main character of a popular kagura performnce.

This photo of a young priest may be Kobo Daishi as a young man. Horakuji is a Shingon temple and their website says they have a modern statues of him. It may be Jiun, a famous 18th century monk who began his studies as an acolyte here when he was 13 and went on to become famous as both a sanskrit scholar and as a religious leader who emphasized a return to an earlier, less "degenerated" form of Buddhism.

This last one is obviously an onigawara, a demon rooftile to ward off evil. Quite a similarity to the "demon queller".

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More Shrine Masks


Continuing with some photos of masks I found in shrines while walking along the Iwami coast this past spring. In a small shrine in a remote fishing cove near Orii were this pair of Ebisu and Daikoku, 2 of the 7 Lucky Gods, and often paired together.


At the Kasuga Shrine in Sufu was this pairing of, I think, Shoki and Oni. These are much older, wooden masks.


At the Itsukushima Shrine in Matsubara another Ebisu-Daikoku pair. They look as if they may have been made out of plaster. I have a small pair made out of plaster at home.


At Ikan Shrine in Shimokou, a demon mask with some variations that I hadnt seen before leading me to believe it is from a mask maker I have not encountered before. The use of curved fangs is unusual and something I had been thinking of incorporating into my own masks.


Finally, at the Hekireki Shrine next to the site of the former Kokubunji, yet another Ebisu- Daikoku pair

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shrine masks


While walking along the Shimane coast in the spring I stopped in at as many shrines as I could. One of the things I seek out at shrines are masks. many shrines will have masks on display in the main hall  to ward off evil or to attract good fortune. Sometimes they will be regular kagura masks vworn by dancers, but sometimes they will be large and non-functional as masks. This first one was an older, wooden demon mask at Kakihime Shrine in Kushiro near Masuda.


Not far away at the Hachimangu in Tsuda there were a lot of masks on display, the most intriguing being this large demon mask, also wooden and old.


Masks will often come in pairs, the left one is certainly a Karasu Tengu, which would usually be paired with a long-nosed Tengu, but I am not sure if that is what the right hand mask is.


There was also a pair of Tengu in the normal coloring and style.....


And there was a Shoki mask. Shoki, a daoist demon-queller is conflated with Susano in Japan and the two masks are often interchangeble.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Month of Little Sleep part 6


After the round of ceremonies at Nakano Omoto Matsuri it was time for more dancing and first up was some very young kids dancing Hachiman.....


Bothe the 2 heroes and the 2 demons were very young kids and they did a really great job...


Next up a couple of older kids danced Shoki...


Then to the other end of the age scale.... an elderly gentleman danced the first part of Yachimata. This was the first time I have seen this dance and the only reference I can find to it says it is danced by Uzume and Sarutahiko. Yachimata is the crossroads between the High Plain of Heaven and Japan and it is here that Ninigi, Amaterasu's grandson, and his entourage meet Sarutahiko on their derscent from heaven to begin their rule of Japan. This old gentleman is obviously not Uzumne, so maybe he is Ninigi.....


The second part of the dance belongs to Sarutahiko....


A break from the theatrical kagura brings us to the Four Swords dance. I have read that originally this dance and Kenmai were once the same dance but then split into 2 separate parts.


The dance increases in tempo and excitement and the audience is well aware when difficult, acrobatic sections have been performed well.....

It was around 2am and there was lots more to come but I was suffering from a bad cold so took my leave early.....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Month of Little Sleep part 4


Around 2:30am the kagura group took a break, something I have never seen before. I suspect that as the village has shrunk, so has the kagura group, and fewer members means each must do more and therefore not get any breaks during the long night. The audience took the opportunity to pull out some food and spread out... All night long Mr Yama operating the barbecue grill outside had been passing free food into us.... fried noodles, barbecued squid, barbecued crab legs..... along with copious amounts of cold beer and sake, so we were full but could not refuse the offers from different groups in the audience who insisted we join them and share their food....this, for me, is the essence of matsuri....


After the break the action started up  with the Oeyama dance with lots of demons including the favorite of the audience, a junior demon...


The spiders web trapped the hero but he was of course able to free himself and kill the demon...


next up was Iwato, usually one of the first dances at a matsuri....


And then Ebisu, ably assisted by junior Ebisu, distributing lucky candy to everyone in the audience...


The penultimate dance was Shoki.......


Outside the sky was lightening and more people had been arriving...... in the countryside people get up at 5... and so it was time for the finale, Susano's battle with the multiheaded Orochi.... It was a small kagura group, so there were only four heads to the serpent, but even so they took all the dance space and spilled out into the audience. An exciting end to a great night..... time to go home to bed and rest up..... in 3 days it would be an Omoto Matsuri up in Nakano....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010



On Sunday we went downriver to the Oihikonomikoto Shrine in Matsukawa Oda. They always have their matsuri on a Sunday during the daytime so there is no problem deciding which matsuri to visit like on a Saturday night when there might be 10 or more going on.

The village doesn't have a kagura group so Iwamishindaikagura Kamiko Syachu from Hamada were paid to perform.


The first dance we saw was Kurozuka, a very popular dance especially with older kids. Based on a couple of Noh plays the story revolves around an evil white fox. I was particularly impressed with this groups fox mask.

In the early part of the story/dance a priest and his guide Goriki, spend the night in a house of a pregnant woman. She is in fact the evil fox in disguise and in the video we see here she bewitches and possesses the guide. In the original story she kills and eats him, but in the dance he survives.

The priest then begins to battle the fox. The Kurozuka dance has many different variations depending on the group that is performing it. Often the dance incorporates pantomime and humor and the dancers speak in modern vernacular and local dialect.


The fox will invariably attack the audience and seek out young children to terrify.


Parents seem to take great delight in their kids being terrified and will call the fox to attack their babies. The Japanese believe that screaming loudly will cause their kids to grow up strong and healthy. I personally find it uncomfortable and believe it is more to instill fear in the kids and keep them close to the family and frightened of "outside".


Next dance up was Shoki, the demon-queller.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shoki a la Peckinpah

I thought I would post a slightly longer video of Iwami kagura. A dance usually last 45 minutes, but for now I post the final sequence of Shoki by my local kagura group Tanijyugo Shachu.

In the synopsis for the dance it says that Shoki subdues the demon with his ring of miscanthus reed and then stabs him and kills him.

In this version I counted more than 20 stabs!!!


The hoop of miscanthus reed is still used today and is called a Chinowa. Passing through the ring is supposed to protect you from communicable diseases.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 5


After Ichiyama matsuri we stopped in at Kawado, the village just across the river from mine, for the last matsuri of the night.


I've watched hundreds of kagura dances, and yet am still learning something new almost everytime I see a dance. Every village has developed their own variations on the dances and stories, and I suppose I have also become more knowledgable about details.


The last dance we watched was Shoki, a 2 person dance with Shoki and a single demon.


Shoki was a "demon-quelling" Chinese God who has become equated with Susano in Japan. The Susano and Shoki masks are interchangeable, though here at Kawado Shoki did not where a mask at all.


I learned an interesting thing about Kawado's version of Shoki. The person chosen to play Shoki is not set. It is chosen each year by the group depending on whoever has had good fortune that year. Usually that means someone who has gotten married or had a child. This years dancer had recently celebrated the birth of his fourth child.

In this video there is something I hadn't seen before. After the demon has pranced about the stage, Shoki climbs up and starts shaking the tengai over the demon. The tengai is the canopy over the kagura stage, and the kami descend through the paper streamers to possess the dancers.