Sunday, December 12, 2004


OK, I’ll be honest. Until this day, I had almost no idea what Kagura was. All I knew was that it was some kind of Japanese tradition. Period. Well, Live and Learn. Today, most unexpectedly, I had a chance to see Kagura and believe it or not, I enjoyed it so much.

Roughly summarizing what I read in some Japanese websites after coming back, Kagura is a traditional sacred dance and music dedicated to Shinto Gods to thank for the good harvest and chase bad luck away. In the past, only Shinto priests were allowed to perform Kagura, but these days non-priests can also perform, so the Kagura tradition seems to be mainly passed down by members of preservation association in each village or province.

Of course I didn’t know anything like that when I saw the performance on stage in front of Hirome ichiba (the food court where they had the Halloween party in Oct.) this afternoon. There was a new cultural event going on. The event looked like a dance festival and the program listed a variety of dance performances from traditional ones like Kagura and sword dance to modern street dance and Hawaiian hula!

Hawaiian hula dance. I was impressed with their wonderful smile. They looked so happy even in their bare feet on this chilly, drizzling day!

Kagura. The story was about searching for a missing sword or something, I think.

A goblin in Kagura. The rope with paper strips and holly sprigs indicate that it is a sacred area.

A baby held by the goblin is said to grow stronger and healthier. (I'm more worried about the baby being severely traumatized…) But the goblin gently patted the baby on the head after the dance and the baby stopped crying.

Bow Dance.

It’s such a shame that I couldn’t take a good shot of this gyu's performance. He held 2 wooden trays on his open palms (never grabbed them) and moved them up and down, front to back, and he finally rolled on the floor still holding 2 wooden trays on his palms. Amazing!!

Meanwhile, Yosakoi dance was being performed in the nearby shopping arcade. (Yosakoi festival is held only once a year in August, but some teams dance Yosakoi in other events, too.)

I love their costume and Goldfish-shaped pouch!

I used to think that Japanese traditional dance and music are very elegant, but kind of too slow and not too exciting (sorry.) But today, the Kagura music was really uptempo with 4 beat rhythm (or 16 beat? I can’t tell the difference) and the movements were not slow with lots of circular turns and stomps. Traditional costumes and colored paper strips were beautiful. I guess those paper strips have some special meanings in Shinto. It’d be interesting to learn about those meanings.

posted by obachan, 12/12/2004 10:40:00 PM


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