Showing posts with label omoto kagura. Show all posts
Showing posts with label omoto kagura. Show all posts

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Month of Little Sleep part 10


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On Sunday 21st October we went to the Omoto Matsuri up in the small settlement of Yudani. It is a small settlement, getting smaller. Only 34 households remain and they are mostly old folks...... there are no kids. The Omoto Matsuris only occur every 7 years and are expensive affairs and only 34 families are left to fund it. It ended up being a fantastic night with all the hallmarks of a true matsuri.... friendliness, generosity, inebriation, humor etc.... I shot over a thousand photos but choose just a handful.....

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After the initial rituals and ceremonies the first kagura was Shihogatame, a dance unique to Omoto Kagura but which is similar to Kamimukae in regular Iwami kagura.

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At a usual ceremony there may be half a dozen to a dozen offerings placed on the altar, but given the importance of Omoto rituals there will be anything from 30 to 50 different items....

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Possibly my favorite Omoto kagura "dance" is Tengai, unique to Omoto. I have seen it performed by priests and also by kagura dancers, but in my experience it is the priests who put on a more dynamic dance.....

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The Ebisu dance was unique, for me at least, in several respects. usually Ebisu dances alone, or sometimes with Daikoku, and its usually just a pantomime with him throwing candy to the crowd and then catching a Sea Bream. This was the "complete" Ebisu dance with the first part danced by a dancer as a priest, then with Ebisu, and then finally the "usual" Ebisu dance. usually the fish caught by Ebisu is made out of paper, but here they used the actual fish that had been on the altar as offering to Omoto.

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At 6am the final ritual/dance took place and this is where possession, kamigakari, will take place, if it take place. The rope snake representing Omoto is swung violently backwards and forwards by the priests. To the rear you can see the villager who had been designated to be the recipient of possession. kamigakari did not occur.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Month of Little Sleep part 5


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Wednesday night was Omoto Matsuri up in Nakano. Honoring the local kami Omotojin, these matsuris only take place, in the villages that still have them, every six or 7 years and are therefore more important than the annual matsuri. The event took place in the shrines kaguraden, but the villagers had built a huge temporary shelter out of bamboo and blue tarps to keep everyone protected from the weather....

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As we arrived the Iwato dance was underway....

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After that first dance it was time for rituals and ceremony to begin and first the representation of Omoto, a coiled rope snake with red tongue was brought in and set on the temporary altar. Later the snake will be uncoiled and used in some shamanic rituals, and next day he will be taken to a sacred tree and wrapped around its base.

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Next three priests conducted a purification of the space that culminated with the scattering of rice grains over the space and the audience/congregation.....

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The other priests now entered, 7 in total, and they were all purified with the Onusa. The priests had come from all over the district. Most shrines do not have a resident priest, and the few priests that do live in the countryside are responsible for a large number of shrines. For Omoto rituals there may be as many as ten priests who take part.

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next came the lengthy ritual of placing the offerings on the altar. Mostly shinsen, food offerings, but also other types known as heihaku. Compared to a more usual shrine ceremony, the number of offerings was quite large as befitting the importance of Omoto.

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Next a series of norito were read to Omoto, after which the offerings were removed, rather more quickly than they were placed, and then Omoto was placed above the tengai to "observe" the nights dances and the altar dismantled so the dancing could continue.....


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Iwami Kagura Museum

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The Iwami Kagura Museum is located in what used to be the village elementary school in Ichiyama, but now is home to the village community center.

Entrance is free.

There is an extensive collection of masks.

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As well as other implements and accessories used in kagura,

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including the richly, decorated costumes.

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Most of the museum concentrates on Omoto Kagura, the shamanic dance that is now only performed in our local area.

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The centerpiece is a replica of the ritual space wherein Omoto Kagura is performed.

There is an extensive collection of videos that can be viewed as well as a library of books on kagura as well as other materials, play books, etc.

A real gem of a museum, free, and rarely visited...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shamanic dance. A taster

From 6:30p.m. yesterday evening until 5:30a.m. this morning I visited the Omoto kagura Matsuri in the village of Eno.

Had a fantastic and exhilarating time thanks to the hospitality and effort of the villagers and dancers,... lots of free delicious food and sake!, and some great dances.

At some point I will post in more detail about the rituals and dances, but for now a few videos of the shamanic elements of the night.




A little after midnight a young villager gave a stellar performance of the Mat dance, Gozamai. The congregation/audience showed their appreciation at the finale for a great effort of an athletic dance.



Around 1a.m. was the Tengai dance. It still remains my favorite of all the Omoto dances. Unusually it was kagura dancers who pulled the strings, not priests.



Around 4a.m. Omotosan, in his form as the rope snake, was taken down from the altar and the priests and dancers performed the Tsunanuki, the Rope Pulling dance.



Following Tsunanuki, Omotosan is suspened from the Tengai canopy, and the final dance in the shamanic portion of the festival took place. Jyojyu is the dance wherein possession is most likely to occur. This year Omotosan chose not to speak.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 3

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Our next matsuri was in Eno, a small village on the Yato River. This was our first time to matsuri here. It's a fairly new shrine, established under the orders/instructions of Omotojin during shamanic possession at Omoto kagura across the river in Ichiyama. Next month there will be Omoto Kagura here.

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The matsuri was well attended! After sitting down we were given 2 steaming bowls of wild boar stew, and later warmed Omiki, the sacred sake. :)

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The first dance after the ceremonial dances (shinji) was Iwato.

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Something I've never seen before in performances of Iwato was that during Uzume's dance the other "kami" joined in playing the intruments.

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Playing before the home crowd is always tough as locals are the toughest critics.

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The next dance was Yumi Hachiman with the usual spectacular demons entrance. Around midnight we had to leave as there were 2 more matsuris to visit this night.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kagura dancer

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One of the things that attracts me to Iwami kagura is the sheer dedication and professionalism of the dancers, though in fact there are no professionals, they are all amateurs.

These shots are of my friend Tetsuhide dancing the purification dance as part of last years Omoto Kagura at Ichiyama.


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He's been dancing kagura for over 40 years, and all three of his sons are also kagura dancers. During the week he is a travelling salesman, and on the weekends he helps out in his families business, the village liquor store.

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Kagura is performed primarily as entertainment for the kami, but in one sense the dancer also becomes the kami. The dancers hold various kinds of torimono, objects into which the kami descend. For this dance he is using a fan and a large nusa, a type of ceremonial wand.

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The regular purification dance with 4 dancers was performed before this one, which is specific to Omoto.

Outside of my local area, Iwami, it is rare to find anyone who knows what kagura is, and yet it is the root of Noh, Kabuki, and other performing arts in Japan.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tengai Dance, Omoto Kagura



This short video is from my favorite of all the Omoto Kagura dances. The tengai is the canopy above a kagura performance space. The kami descend through the colored paper streamers and into the dancers.

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The tengai dance is unusual in that it is not humans who dance, but the tengai itself. I have not come across anything like this anywhere else in japan, and I have a lot more research to do to understand it.

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For Omoto kagura there is a somewhat different tengai, among the paper streamers are lantern/box like structures.

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The boxes are connected by ropes to the priests who sit at the side of the area.

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Before the dance begins long streamers inside the boxes are unfurled and hang down. I suspect the writing on them has daoist or esoteric buddhist meaning, as Omoto Kagura was brought to this area by Yamabushi of Shugendo.

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The dance begins slowly with the boxes being lowered and raised slowly, gradually the tempo increases and then lateral movement, swinging, and twisting all begin. As with normal kagura, at times audience members or musicians will shout when a particularly fine sequence of movements are executed.

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I've seen the Tengai dance performed by 3 priests, and once by only 2 priests, and was stunned by the intricacy and complexity of the movements created.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Omoto Kagura



It is believed that the root of Japanese religion, AND the root of Japanese performing arts lie in shamanic trance. Shamanic kagura was once commonplace throughout Japan, but was suppressed by the Meiji government. Only one place in Japan still has traditional shamanic kagura and that happens to be the place I live. I will be posting a lot more on this subject as it is the focus of a lot of my research and there is almost nothing on it in English.

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The focus of Omoto kagura is Omoto, or Omotojin, the local land-based kami. Up in Izumo it is called Kojin, and like Omoto is represented as a rope snake. There are about 60 sites in my area that are considered Omoto shrines, though only a few have shrine buildings. Omoto kagura is practised at a handful of shrines, each shrine working to a 5, 6, or 7 year cycle, so some years there is no Omoto kagura , some years several performances.

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Omoto kagura is performed by priests, and in fact all the priests of the county take part. As in the old days, the villagers perform theatrical kagura during the intervals between the priests various dances.

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The supreme importance of Omoto kagura to the area is indicated by the number of offerings on the altar. I counted more than 40 different things on the altar at this performance in Ichiyama, compared with less than a dozen at a normal ceremony.

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The dance in the video is called Tsunanuki (rope-pulling) and is probably the most well known of the various dances. If an Omoto kagura is successful then someone will be possessed by Omotojin and will answer questions by the priests usually on such matters as the coming years agricultural cycle, upcoming dangers etc. The grandfather of a friend of mine became possessed by Omotojin on 5 different occasions in the last half of the 20th Century.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Omoto Shrine, Yato.

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This wonderfully weathered torii stands in front of the Omoto Shrine in Yato. It's a small settlement on the banks of the Yato River, not big enough for a shop, but it has 2 shrines.
The Omoto shrine is dedicated to Omotojin who is the original, local, land kami. Up in Izumo he is called Kojin, and he was the main kami of worship for every community in the old days.

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Prior to 1945 there was just a hokora (wayside shrine) here set in a grove of trees. The trees were cut down and sold and the money used to build the present shrine. Every 6 years until 1966, Omoto Kagura was performed here. My friends recently deceased grandfather danced here and 5 times became possesed by Omotojin, the most times for one person in living memory. Shamanic kagura was widespread in Japan until the Meiji era. This area of Iwami is the only place in Japan where it is still practised.

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In front of the shrine stands a giant Mukonoki tree with a width of 1.5 metres. Aphananthe Aspera has no name in English. The leaves of the tree were used as sandpaper.

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A few hundred meters away, the steps lead up to the Hachiman Shrine.

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