What is kagura in the first place? We will introduce the origins of Kagura and the history of Hiroshima's Kagura.
Kagura is a sacred dance where people wearing gorgeous costumes and expressive divinity's masks perform with taiko drums, flutes, and other musical accompaniment. It has been performed as a Shinto ritual dedicated to the local divinities in order to pray for a good harvest. Today, it is enjoyed by people as a local entertainment indispensable for festivals and other celebrations.
What is kagura?
Songs and dances dedicated to divinities from the Japanese mythology
Kagura is the oldest performing art in Japan that was once actively performed throughout Japan.
According to one theory, its origin dates back to the “Amaiwato legend” in Japanese mythology (according to the Kojiki and Nihonshoki).
Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun, was hidden in a cave called Amanoiwato. To lure her back out of the cave, another Godddess called Ama no Uzume no Mikoto performed a dance in front of the cave.
There are various theories about the kagura dance, but one thing that is sure is that comes from the sacred place “Kamikura” where the gods dwells, and the songs and dances are dedicated to divinities to pray for a bountiful harvest and dispelling disaster.
It has been performed as a Shinto ritual dedicated to the local god in various regions of Japan, with some differents because of each region's history and climate.
Today, it is not limited to shrine festivals. It is commun for locals to play it as an entertainment essential for events and celebrations.
The history of Hiroshima's Kagura
The dances of various regions that merged to the present Kaguras
Kagura in Hiroshima is a fusion of various flows : the main one is the Omoto Kagura from Iwami Region. To this dance were mixed the dances of the Izumo Kagura and the Iwato Kagura from Kyushu.
Currently, the kagura in Hiroshima prefecture is divided into five major kaguras: “Geihoku Kagura,” “Aki Junijin Kagura,” “Geiyo Shoto Kagura,” “Hiba Kojin Kagura,” and “Bingo Kagura".
For exemple, Geihoku Kagura is based on Iwami Kagura. It is said that it was introduced to the Geihoku area, more precisely in the Yamagata-gun, Hiroshima prefecture in the Edo period. Evolving along the flow of the times, this kagura was developed as a unique dance.
While the Takada Kagura has a fast tempo in eight tones and a brave dance, the Yamagata Kagura is more of an elegant dance with a gentle and quiet pace in six tones. Even now, in farming villages, when they finish harvesting rice in autumn, Kagura is performed to thank for the good harvest in local shrines.
Recently, it has been widely received by the general public by having gakura troups performing to inauguration ceremonies and weddings. There are also kagura competitions that are held, evoking a kagura boom coming soon.
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