Showing posts with label video. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Raising the New Shimenawa at Hozanji

Last week  I visited the mountain temple of Hozanji in Ikoma, when I arrived at the main torii there were preparations underway to install a new shimenawa. I headed into the temple and spent some time exploring and as I later came to leave there were crowds of people around the torii holding ropes that were to lift it.

I decided to hang around and watch the ceremony. After a while a procession of priests arrived accompanied by musicians playing the ancient chinese instruments and the music of the ancient imperial court that is featured at shinto shrines sometimes.

A series of rituals and chants then took place, led by a very aged head priest.

Then the shimenawa was slowly hoisted by the crowd.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Miko Mai Rehearsal

While exploring Kagoshima Jingu I watched to miko practising for a ceremony later that night.

Miko Mai, or Miko dance is believed to originate with the dance performed by the goddess Uzume in front od the cave wherein the sun goddess Amaterasu had hidden herself.

It is often sid it is the origin of kagura. I have seen it performed by single miko and by groups of 4 miko, but never by 2.

An earlier post with video of 4 very young girls performing can be found here

The ceiling of the shrine was quite stupendous. The performance of the dance was a little surreal without any musical accompaniment.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Swordplay at Togami Shrine

After dropping down from the mountains to the river valley that would lead to my hotel for the night in Hayato City, I spied a big red torii across the rice paddies and headed over to investigate. The torii had a chrysanthemum emblem indicating a connection to the imperial clan.

Togami Shrine was established in the early 8th Century after the Yamato sent a 10,000 strong army to subdue the Hayato people who were resisting the Yamato. Following the war the Yamato removed many Hayato to other parts of Japan and moved  non-Yamato settlers into Hayato territory.

While at the shrine some local people were obviously practising some kind of sword-based martial art, though not having much interest in martial arts, nor in swords and samurai and such, I have no idea what the style/art is.

What is obvious is that it was about fighting against multiple opponents. maybe it is a variation on kendo. If anyone knows please let me know,

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Synchronized Serpents

After the Orochi arrives they then do a series of synchronized movement.

Audiences here kn0w very well when some kagura has been well executed.

Although it was a bit chaotic with 16 serpents, from different groups that were not used to performing together.

Rather than wait for the finale when Susano chops off all their heads, we chose to leave early and avoid the traffic

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Orochi Spectacular


Last night we went to Hamada to see the annual Orochi Spectacle. They close off the center crossroads in town and put on regular kagura and end with a unique version of Orochi.

Most versions of Orochi don't show the start of the dance which depicts the second to last daughter being sacrificed to Orochi, the 8-headed serpent.

Then the hero Susano arrives. Usually he is alone but a second hero accompanied him in this version. My guess would be his son Isotakeru who according to one of the versions of the myth came with him from the Korean peninsula.

The parents of Kushinada, the last daughter, are instructed by Susano to prepare vats of sake which are then drugged so as to disable the serpents. In return for saving Kushinada from her fate she is given to Susano as a bride.

Then the Orochi arrives. Originally the dance only had a single dancer dressed as the serpent. Here in Iwami it was developed to include 8 serpents in the dance, though many shrine performances will only have four due to space and kagura group size limitations. What is unique about this performance is fully sixteen serpents take part.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dennis Banks in Yamaguchi


On Sunday I was privileged to finally meet one of my heroes. We went down to Tokuyama in Yamaguchi to see the last public event of Dennis Banks 2013 Japan Tour. For those who don't know who Dennis Banks is, he was a founding member of AIM and has continued to work for native issues, which by its very nature also means peace and environmental issues.

He spends a lot of time in Japan and after this last gig he was off to nearby Iwaishima to meet with the nuclear resisters there.

First there was a video of his life story, from the early days of AIM up through the Longest Walks and on to projects he is working on now. Then he spoke for a while and the afternoon ended with some traditional Ojibwa dances. It was good to hear the beat of the drum again, both literaly and metaphorically. Afterwards we spoke together about mutual friends, both living and those passed on.


Later we went and enjoyed some of Tokuyamas christmas illuminations.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Return of the Badger

Most evenings I hear the badger snuffling around just outside my house, so when I saw it yesterday afternoon I got out there with my camcorder and took a few shots....

other posts on the anaguma here

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Contemporary Sacred Music & Dance at Mononobe Shrine

On Wednesday I came back one day earlier than planned from my Kyushu Pilgrimage because I found out that my friend Hiroki Okano and friends were performing at a local shrine. Part of their own Izumo Pilgrimage, they brought a flame from the Hiroshima Peace Park. On the previous night they performed at Gakuenji, and I would have loved to have been there but there was no way of getting back in time.


Leading the improvised performance was Hiroki Okano on native-american cedar flute, keyboards, voice, & native drum. Hiroki has recorded with the well known  Navajo flute player R. Carlos Nakai, and even brought him over for a concert in a temple in Kyoto. One of his specialities is performing at sacred sites..... including Enryakuji on Hiezan. A full list of recent performances can be found here


On didgeridoo and kalimba was "Matsu" and the drummer was Kajiwara Tetsuya...... I'm fond of drum solos, so.....

Kajiwara was the drummer with The Blue Hearts, who, I am reliably informed, were one of the top Punk bands in Japan


On Taiko drums was Nobuhito Tomoka, and the dancer was Kunitomo Yuichiro. The dancer was excellent, but unfortunately my video cameras battery was flat.....


He is the son of Kunitomo Suga, generally regarded as the "mother of modern yosakoi dance". Since her death 2 years ago Yuichiro has taken over Sugaren, one of the top yoakoi dance groups in Japan.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kyushu 108 Pilgrimage, Temple 2 Hannya-in

Hannya-in is the second temple on the Kyushu Pilgrimage I am walking. Its located in a hilly suburb of Fukuoka City.

Like all 108 of the temples on the pilgrimage it belongs to the Shingon sect. The honzon is an 11-faced Kannon, and in the main hall there are also a Yakushi Nyorai, a Fudo Myoo and a Kobo Daishi statue:

There was a small Inari shrine in the grounds, and this shrine with a carving of a snake eating its tail. Unfortunately the sign was illegible.

I would have asked the priest but he was busy with a ceremony. The nicest thing at the temple was the big Fudo Myo statue.

The origins of the temple lie with a tea-master of the Fukuoka domain who dies about 300 years ago.

Apparently it was moved to its current location because of the  construction for the shinkansen line.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shujo Onie Fire Festival

Shujo Onie Fire Festival

February 10th was the Lunar New Year and on the 16th the Shujo Onie Festival was held to mark the occasion. It was held at 2 temples on the Kunisaki Peninsular and I was lucky enough to visit the one at Iwato-Ji. The action began after dark when to the accompaniment of ringing bells and blown conch shells pairs of accolytes ran down the hillside to where the mountain stream had carved a deep pool of water into which the men jumped.

later 4 huge firebrands, 4 to 5 meters in length, were carried down from the temple to a waiting fire where they were lit. Officially this is a buddhist festival at a Tendai temple, but historically its roots are in the unique form of Shugendo in this area.

Then the burning firebrands were carried through the torii and up the steps to the inner shrine area where ther e are caves where the shugenja practised shugyo and other buddhist halls where further ceremonies will take place..

The burning wood was followed by a procession of priests and musicians.

Later there would be much more..... demons (priests in masks) will be brought to life, perform some dances, and then beat all the onlookers with burning sticks. I believe this is to drive away demons and bring good luck for the new year. later still the demons visit all the houses in the community. Unfortunately it was getting late and I was finding the crowds too much so we left.....

Design your own happi coat

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.

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 .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Japanese Childrens songs

These 3 short clips of traditional Japanese children's songs are from the Warabekan, a toy and childrens song museum in Tottori City.

The childrens song section of the museum I found particularly interesting and thought the way they displayed these songs were good.

Unfortunately I have no information about these particular songs, so if any readers know what they are aor anything about them please post a comment.

Friday, October 29, 2010



The seventh kagura matsuri for us this month was at Kakushi in Gotsu. Being in a town there were lots of people there and lots of stalls. There were lots and lots of kids running around. It was a Monday night but because of the all night matsuri all the local schools were closed next morning.

First dance we saw was Shioharae, the purification of the dance space. We came here about 6 years ago and Kakushi had their own kagura group, in the more traditional 6-beat style. Tonight Tsuchi kagura group were playing. Tsuchi pay the faster 8-beat style. Actually Tsuchi were the teachers of my own village kagura group.


Next up was Hachiman. The Kakushi shrine, like many round here, is a Hachiman shrine. Last year when we did the rounds of the matsuris it seemed that everywhere we turned up they were dancing the Iwato dance. This year it seems to be the Hachiman dance.

Hachiman danced alone, and fought a single demon.


Next up was Yamato Takeru. There are a whole series of myths/legends/stories about the exploits of the prince known as Yamato Takeru, mostly concerned with his subjugation of tribes outside Yamato control in Kyushu, Izumo, and the East. On his way east he is given a sacred sword by his aunt who was the Head Priestess as the Ise shrine. This is the sword that Susano found in the tail of the 8-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi, and gave to his sister Amaterasu the Sun Goddess, ancestor of the Yamato imperial line.


In the East he is almost killed when his enemies lure him alone into a grassy plain. They light the dry grass all around him but he uses the sword to cut down the grass around him and he creates a firebreak. Since this episode the sacred sword, one of the three Imperial Regalia, has been known as Kusanagi, the grass-cutting sword.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


After watching a few dances up at the matsuri in Kanzui, it was time to head back to our own matsuri in Tanijyugo.

The Kakko dance had just started. In this video we see the main character attempt to summon the god Kirime by finding the correct location to place the sacred drum. Not being knowledgeable about such things he is unsuccesful and his dance veers towards a comical jig.

Next up was Yasogami, a tale about Okuninushi, the hero, and his 80 brothers. In this first scene the 80 brothers, represented by 2 of them, attempt to kill Okuninushi but end up beating themselves up. Sections of the dance descend into comedy and pantomime.

The end of the Yasogami dance is the traditional swordfight wherein Okuninushi dispatches the brothers in succession.

Next up was Hachiman, the kami of the local shrine. In our groups version Hachiman has an aide and they fight 2 demons. Being the god of archery, Hachiman hills the demons with arrows rather than swords.

Around 3am the Ebisu dance was performed, but in this instance 2 Ebisus danced. Like all kagura dances it lasted 45 minutes and has many different sections and these 2 little boys did amazingly well. The most important part of the Ebisu dance is when he throws out lucky candy to the audience.

Monday, October 18, 2010



Saturday was the matsuri in our own village, but first we headed up into the mountains to check out a matsuri we hadn't been to before at Kanzui Uehata Shrine.
Kanzui is remote. There is no village as such, just scattered farms up and down the narrow valley.
One of the first walks I took in this area was here and I was amazed that in 15 kilometers there was but one vending machine.

We arrived just as the ceremony was finishing and once inside we were invited to partake of the Omiki.

The first dance was a surprise. Usually the first dance is Shioharae, the dance that purifies the dance space in preparation for the dancing, but here they performed a dance I have never seen before, the Akuma'barai, the Purging Demons dance. It is danced by Sarutahiko. the earthly kami that marries Uzume, and his red face and long nose makes him indistinguishable from Tengu.


The dance seems to be more common in the Bitchu region than around here.


The next dance up, Kami Mukai, the welcoming of the gods, was danced by children, but also unusually it was 2 girls. Until recently Iwami Kagura was an all-male affair. Gradually girls have begun to perform as musicians, and occasionally dance some of the ritual dances, but as yet I have never seen a female dance any of the theatrical pieces.


The last dance we saw before heading off to our home village was Yumi Hachiman, and in this dance Hachiman was played by a young boy.

I got really good vibes at this matsuri, from the shrine, the performers, and the small number of villagers in attendance. Next year I plan to spend much longer here as I suspect there are more surprises in store for me.