Among famous Japanese traditional performing arts like Kabuki and Noh, Kagura is the oldest with its origin in ancient Japanese mythology. It was originally offered to Shinto deities to welcome and entertain them and performed only by shinto priests and ‘miko (shrine maiden)’ at shinto shrines thanking and praying for abundant crop, however, it has become widely common for the public to be enjoyed with.
Especially in western Shimane Prefecture, which is referred to as the Iwami region, it is called ‘Iwami Kagura’ and very popular for containing entertaining features, such as the use of sound and visual effects so that the performance can be better understood for the audience.
The stories are easy to follow as they often consists of heroes and villains, gods and demons, of good guys and bad guys. Many times these dances involve intense choreographed sword-fights. However, it’s not all action and drama as there are comedic interludes with some dances that approach pantomime. There interludes are sure to have you laughing and cheering.
The most spectacular and unique of all the dances is the one usually performed for the finale, Yamata no Orochi, in which the hero wins the princess’s hand by battling eight 15-meter long serpents with blazing eyes and sparks spewing from their open jaws. During the battle, which gets more frenzied as it develops, the eight serpents perform amazing set pieces.
About 90 minutes west of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine by car, ‘Mainoza Theater 舞の座’ opened in March 2019 in Gotsu City, which is the first theater in Shimane Prefecture dedicated to Iwami Kagura . Chartered performances can be arranged at a special price for the inbound group tours. Conditions apply.
H. Koshika Travel Kids Co., Ltd. www.travelkids-japan.com