Friday, October 30, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 7


For our next matsuri we again headed downriver, this time on the opposite bank to Kawahira. The shrine, like most shrines round here, is at the top of a small hill necessitating a climb. From the top of the hill the sound of the matsuri can be heard all over the village down below.

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The harvest matsuri is quite small in Kawahira, the village puts much more effort into the Rice Planting Festival (Tauebayashi) . We came here a few years ago for the Omoto kagura, and the villagers were very friendly and welcoming. This time, after we sat down, the village headman came over and put his forehead to the floor and thanked us profusely for visiting his humble village.

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The village kagura group is quite small, and the dancers are relatively speaking quite old. The first dance we saw involved quite a "portly" dancer.

Recently several visitors have asked if the swords they use in the dances are real. Well, obviously they are not sharpened, but they are made of steel, and I'm always surprised that with the frenetic swordfights in many dances that no-one gets slashed.

This time an accident happened. One of the dancers hands started gushing blood. Someone ran in and wrapped about 2 meters of sellotape around his hand and the dance continued.

After the dance he was taken to hospital for stitches, and being such a small group the loss of one dancer meant a rejigging of the schedule.

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A couple of dances later was "Yorimasa". and the main feature of this dance involves several vicious monkeys playing havoc with the audience. Just before the monkeys entrance I stood up at the back to get a good shot of the monkeys entrance from behind the curtain, and almost jumped out of my skin as one of the monkeys burst in to the shrine from behind me.

The monkeys charge in and out of the audience, stealing food from the audience members, sometimes wrestling with them too.

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The main thing they do though is go for the babies and very young children, grabbing them and running away with them. If the child or baby screams in terror the audience, and particularly the mother, are all smiles.

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