Kagura – Good and Evil, Demons and Gods

Few traditions are as thrilling and mesmerising as Kagura, a special form of dance-based performance worship that has existed within Japan for over 1,300 years. Dressed in elaborate, brightly-coloured costumes and masks, Kagura performers twirl and dart across stages erected within and around Shinto shrines in order to reenact well-known Japanese folktales to entertain and please the shrine’s gods.

Iwami Kagura in Shimane

The very first Kagura show is said to have been performed for the sun goddess Amaterasu, as a way of coaxing her out of the rocks where she hid from her mean-tempered brother. Amaterasu was so mesmerised by the Kagura that she left her hiding place, and the sun once again shone brightly over Japan.

Watching a Kagura show is a fantastic way to truly experience and immerse yourself in Japan’s rich culture and folklore, but the type of performance can vary depending on where in Japan you watch it. Iwami Kagura – a fast-paced form of the tradition that originates from Shimane Prefecture – is still performed across Japan’s southern Chugoku region and continues to be passed down from generation to generation.

The climax of an Iwami Kagura show

Visitors to Shimane can enjoy Iwami Kagura throughout the year, with performances marking some of the Shinto calendar’s most important festivals and dates. Of course, it can be difficult to ensure that your trip to Japan will coincide with a performance date; Heartland Japan can help to arrange a private experience (such as a chance to watch a Kagura rehearsal, witness a performance at your accommodation or even meet the performers in person) for any visitors who would like to witness this truly special art form for themselves outside of festival and holiday times.

What about trying a Kagura costume?

If you’re interested in Japanese culture and wish to experience the country’s unique traditions first-hand, then Kagura could be the perfect addition to your next trip itinerary. Get in touch to find out more, and learn how we can create the ideal tour, just for you.

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