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Masuda City Tourist Information Center

Mail:masuda.shimane@gmail.com

〒698-0024 17-2 Ekimae-cho Masuda-shi Shimane Japan

Iwami Kagura

Regularly-scheduled Kagura Performance
Place: Masuda Station Bildg. EAGA 3F
Dates: Every Saturday(April - August, December - March)
Time: 19:30〜21:00

※ Please join us for watching the delication kagura at a Shrine between September and November.

Go to Kagura Programs






What comes to your mind when you think of Japanese traditional performing arts? Is it Noh, Kyogen, Kabuki, or Bunraku?

In Japan, there are yet many other traditional performing arts, and we would like to introduce kagura, a Shinto theatrical dance and music, dedicated to the deities of Japanese mythology. It is passed down from generation to generation in various regions as well as in the imperial court of Japan. The western region of Shimane is called “Iwami” and the distinct Iwami Kagura evolved here. It is characterized by the dynamic dance, the fast beat music, and the flamboyant costumes.

In Iwami Kagura, there are many characters such as majestic deities, evil ogres, fox specter, agile young warriors, a fair maiden, her grieving parents, and gigantic “Orochi” serpents who all show a dynamic performance on stage.

It was originally performed at Shinto shrines during the annual autumn festival from evening until the next morning. Today it is also presented in theaters as well as at special events and festivals, and many people, regardless of age, gather to watch.







<Music>
The fast-tempo eight-beat rhythm is characteristic of Iwami Kagura, and when people hear the sound of the flute and drums playing, they follow the sound. The music is played with a big drum, a small drum, a bamboo flute, and hand cymbals, and the music progresses along with the rhythm of the big drum. There is no music score, and the big drum beats out the rhythm in unison with the dancers, therefore constant practice is important.
<Masks and costumes>
While wooden masks are mostly used in kagura in other regions, these expressive masks are made of many layers of Sekishu Japanese washi paper. These durable and light masks allow Iwami Kagura to be dynamic. For the masks of deities and ogres, the bigger the mask, the stronger the character it signifies.

The elaborate costume is embroidered with great amount of gold and silver threads. Even ogres and bandits wear splendid costumes and mesmerize the audience.

<Distinctive interpretation>
Spooky ogres appear out of ghostly fog, Orochi spew fire and sparks, and a lady specter changes instantly from a beauty to an ogre to draw the audience into the stories.  
<The dancers and musicians>
In Iwami Kagura, although the dancers and musicians give high-quality performances, they are not professionals, but local people who have day jobs. In West Shimane, there are more than 100 kagura groups, and they practice and give performances after work and on weekends. Although there are female musicians, there are no actresses or female dancers, and female characters are acted by men like in Kabuki.

 <The successors>
Wherever Iwami Kagura is performed, there are young children dancing around the stage like mini kagura dancers. They often join children’s kagura groups and give good performances at schools and local festivals. Iwami Kagura is enjoyed by people of all ages and the young respect their seniors as trainers and masters.

<The plays>
There are more than 30 plays currently being performed. The repertoire includes ritual dances, classic narrative plays, and newly created plays.