Hiroshima KaguraHiroshima Kagura


Kagura is a highly dramatic combination of theater and dance featuring demons, samurai, and regular country folk. Its origin lies in the historic Japanese belief that a pantheon of all-powerful gods controlled everything, and therefore needed to be shown great gratitude if a village were to thrive. Kagura, with its vibrant costumes and expressive masks, would be performed annually around the time of the autumn harvest to thank these gods for a bountiful crop. Believed to be Japan’s oldest performing art, kagura spread across the country alongside the indigenous Shinto religion, and different regions still have their own variations of kagura and its tales, passed down over many centuries.

Hiroshima has long had one of Japan’s most thriving kagura scenes: today, the prefecture boasts around 300 active troupes, which perform the dances and stories associated with their locality. Among these are “Tsuchi-gumo,” which tells of defeated clan leaders turned into revenge-seeking spiderlike demons, and “Yamata no Orochi,” in which an eight-headed serpent symbolizes the floods threatening to destroy a village’s rice fields. Regular kagura performances can be seen at venues including the Hiroshima Prefectural Citizen’s Culture Center and the YMCA International Cultural Hall.

Other forms of kagura include:

(1) Geihoku kagura:with flashy costumes using gold and silver thread and large masks, the showy performance of furious dances and music with sparks flying has helped to promote Hiroshima's kagura throughout the country.

(2) Kagura using straw dolls:this form of kagura has quietly been handed down, limited to the islands and shore areas of the Seto Inland Sea.

(3) Extremely old form of kagura where performers become possessed by the gods as they continue to dance

(4) Kagura that includes songs and story-telling



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