〒698-0024 17-2 Ekimae-cho Masuda-shi Shimane Japan
What comes to your mind when you think of Japanese traditional performing arts? Is it Noh, Kyogen, Kabuki, or Bunraku?
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.
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>
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.