An Invitation to Kagura
Hidden gem of the Traditional Japanese Performing Arts.
When I first became fascinated by Iwami Kagura there was precious little information about it in English. In the past 2 years 2 books have been published which redress this problem. Recently I reviewed God's Music, and now I can review An Invitation to Kagura.
As the subtitle of the book suggests, kagura is the least well known of the performing arts in Japan, and yet to those who have seen it its is one of the most exciting.
The book introduces just about every aspect of the art that one could possibly want to know, from it's history up to where and when you can see kagura nowadays. The author was introduced to kagura while living in Hiroshima, and it is the "secular" kagura seen at festivals in the Hiroshima area that are the focus, with shrine based kagura of the remoter areas occupying the periphery. My own experience is the opposite, with the festival-based kagura an interesting "fringe" to the core of shrine based performances.
The author makes no claim to producing an academic work, rather a labor of love, but the book is nevertheless well researched. The authors background is in theatre, so the relationship of kagura to kabuki and noh is covered, and his listing of the main stories would make the book useful as a guide to visitors to kagura performances.
His versions of Japanese history are a bit too Yamato-centric for my taste, with not enough delineation between myth and history, but that is a minor quibble for what is an excellent book. In conducting his research the author travelled to surrounding areas of west Japan, and his chapters on the regional variations of kagura I found most useful. The photos are good, though only black and white.
The book is self-published, so as well as being available through bookstores or amazon.com etc, it is also available as a less expensive e-book from