October means matsuri, and matsuri means kagura!! usually by the middle of October I have been to half a dozen all-night matsuris, but this year because Ive been spending a lot of time on Shikoku, when I am back home I have too much work to catch up with so matsuris have had to take a back seat. But last saturday I did go up into the mountains to Kanzui....
kanzui is actually only a few kilometers from my village as the crow flies. there used to be a path connecting the two villages, but it has not been walked for many, many years. By road its about 10 kilometers.
There is no "centre" to kanzui, no shops, its really just a scattering of mountainside farms along a narrow mountain valley. My kind of place.
I arrived about 10pm, and the dancing began a little later. At a usual matsuri the first dance is always a purification dance to purify the dance area in preparation of the kami to descend. usually this dance is the Shioharae, a ceremonial dance done without masks. Here at Kanzui the first dance was Akumabarai, a different type of exorcism/purification dance most commonly performed in the Bitchu area of Western Okayama and eastern Hiroshima.
It is danced by Sarutahiko, and consists of three sections. In the first video he is dancing with Gohei (wand) and fan. The objects carried by the dancers in kagura are called torimono, and traditionally they are objects through which the kami "enter" the dancers.
In the second video he dances with an Onibo, a "demon stick" usually carried by demons.
In the third video he dances with two swords. Ive read that in Bitchu kagura the sword dancing predominates and has developed into a wider variety of styles.
During the Edo period akumabarai would sometimes be danced at the head of a wedding procession to purify the road ahead .