Listen to the sounds of Omoto Kagura music
We went to another "performance" of Omoto Kagura recently. Actually we went to two, but at the earlier one we left after a short time due to the rudeness of a group of Kyoto tourists.
Maybe it was the fact that they were on a group tour---- away from the eyes of their neighbors Japanese tend to not behave as politely-----, or maybe it was because they were from Kyoto. Kyotoites are considered the rudest people in Japan by many, this writer included.
The atmosphere was not warm, relaxed and friendly, as a matsuri should be.
This week, however, was great. It was a small shrine in a small village, and although there were one or two outsiders there to observe and record the kagura, the atmosphere was familial.
It's worth noting that there are no proffesional Iwami Kagura dancers. By day they are salarymen, office- workers, farmers, truck drivers, etc but they dance with a love for the art and as an offering to the gods.
In this village most of the dancers were older men. The lure of jobs in the city has taken most of the younger people.
Omoto Kagura Matsuri only happen every 7 years, and Omoto-sama, the god honored by the matsuri, is the local god, not a national god, so the matsuri is particularly well-attended.
Part way through the night the dancing and joviality is interrupted by a more serious ritual, a giving of the offerings to Omoto-sama.
Once that had passed the dancing resumed, and of course Omiki, sacred sake is passed around the audience.
Around 1.a.m. the Tengai "dance" was performed. 2 priests manipulated ropes to cause the paper streamers in the overhead canopy to dance. As it got faster and wilder the audience showed their appreciation by cheering.
If you ever get the chance to visit a genuine village matsuri, take the opportunity to experience a side of Japan that is unkown, even to many urban Japanese.
Buy tasteful interior decoration paper lanterns.
Books on Japan
Japan images by Jake Davies
Japan shimane Kawahira Shinto kagura shamanism Omoto dance
Sunday, December 10, 2006