Kagura: Gods and eight-headed serpents

08 Jun 2018 in Discover Japan

It’s stylized, spectacular and a huge amount of fun. Find out where you can catch a kagura performance!

kagura

Kagura literally translates as “God entertainment” – and that’s exactly how it started: as a ritualistic performance in Shinto ceremonies. It’s reckoned to be the oldest form of Japanese theatre, pre-dating Noh and Kabuki, and was created as a way to amuse and appease the Gods in the hope of a good harvest.

dragon-dance

Over the years, kagura has diversified into a mind-boggling array of different forms. Mikagura is the original ritual dance performed at the Imperial court and Shinto shrines. Satokagura are folk forms, which can in turn be split into a whole range of sub-categories depending on their themes and region of origin.

What unites all these forms of kagura is the colourful costumes, energetic performances and exuberant actors.

japanese-dance

theater-dance

The stories focus on the tribulations and triumphs of heroic Gods overcoming demons and difficulties. The dances are spectacular and superbly choreographed. It’s all a huge amount of fun.


So, where can you catch a performance?

Two Prefectures are particularly well-known for kagura: Miyazaki and Shimane. If you stay at Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo in Shimane, you’ll be treated to a 15-minute show in the evening, where a cunning God outwits an eight-headed serpent by getting it drunk on sake!

The 16-metre long serpent is a wondrous sight, twisting and writhing in time to the traditional Japanese music. You’ll even be able to take a picture with yourself, the God and the serpent after the show!

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