Iwami Kagura

Iwami Kagura is a unique and captivating traditional performance art that has been thrilling audiences in japan for decades. This masked performance art is fast-paced, exciting, colorful, and dynamic, offering a truly unforgettable experience. Iwami Kagura is now regularly performed at the famous Gion Festival in Kyoto, attracting visitors from all over the world.

One of the highlights of Iwami Kagura is the depiction of terrifying demons and frenzied gods. The performances often involve the portrayal of mythical creatures and legendary characters, such as the eight-headed giant serpent Orochi. The incredible masks and costumes worn by the performers add to the overall spectacle of the art form.

To witness the magic of Iwami Kagura, you can visit the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture, where the performances are held all-year-round. Shimane Prefecture can be easily reached from Tokyo by plane, with direct flights available from Haneda Airport to Izumo Airport and Hagi-Iwami Airport. From Izumo Airport, you can take the JR Sanin Line or drive to the western part of Shimane Prefecture. If you are coming from Osaka, there are also direct flights to Izumo Airport. Alternatively, you can travel by shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station and then take the Isaribi Highway Bus to Hamada Station.

The stories told in Iwami Kagura performances are often drawn from ancient history books dating back to the eighth century or from legends and stories that have become famous in Noh theater. These stories are easy to follow, as they typically feature heroes and villains, gods and demons, and good guys and bad guys. Many of the performances include intense choreographed sword-fights, adding to the excitement and drama. However, there are also comedic interludes that incorporate pantomime, providing moments of laughter and cheer for the audience.

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One of the most spectacular and unique dances in Iwami Kagura is the Yamata no Orochi, often performed as the finale. In this dance, the hero battles eight 17-meter long serpents with blazing eyes and sparks spewing from their open jaws in order to win the princess’s hand. The battle becomes more frenzied as it progresses, and the serpents perform amazing set pieces. This dance truly showcases the skill and talent of the performers.

What sets Iwami Kagura apart from other traditional performing arts is its innovative approach to music and costumes. While it is rooted in folk art, Iwami Kagura has evolved over time, incorporating faster-paced drumming and flutes compared to other forms of kagura. Local groups have also introduced smoke-machines, wireless microphones, and fireworks to make their performances more thrilling. The costumes worn by the performers are worth upwards of USD $10,000 and feature intricate designs with miles of gold thread and tiny mirrors. These costumes are cleverly designed to allow for instant transformations, adding an element of surprise to the audience’s enjoyment.

Another unique aspect of Iwami Kagura is the use of special masks made from sekishu washi paper, which is produced locally. These masks are lighter for the dancers to wear and allow for a greater level of detail and expression. They have become popular souvenirs and are often displayed in the entrances of homes and businesses to ward off evil spirits.

There are numerous opportunities to witness Iwami Kagura throughout the year, thanks to the more than 130 kagura groups spread across the Iwami region. The most authentic experience can be found at local shrine festivals, which are usually held in October or November after the rice has been harvested. These festivals continue all night, offering an intimate and memorable way to experience the tradition. Additionally, Iwami Kagura is now performed at summer festivals, cherry blossom festivals, Obon dance festivals, and other events and gatherings throughout the year. Some hot spring resorts in the region, like Yunotsu or Arifuku, also put on short performances to introduce Iwami Kagura to their guests.

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For those interested in seeing a variety of Iwami Kagura dances and different styles in one place, many towns in the region hold annual kagura competitions. These competitions are highly competitive, with local groups vying to put on the best performance. Held in auditoriums and large halls, these competitions attract knowledgeable and critical audiences.

In conclusion, Iwami Kagura is a remarkable traditional performance art that offers a unique and thrilling experience. The combination of fast-paced movements, vibrant costumes, and captivating storytelling makes it a must-see for anyone visiting Japan. Whether you choose to attend a local shrine festival, a summer festival, or a kagura competition, you will be mesmerized by the beauty and energy of Iwami Kagura. So make sure to include this extraordinary art form in your travel itinerary and be prepared to be amazed.

Address And Maps Location:

Asaicho, Hamada-shi, Shimane-ken

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