Tabayashi Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down at Tabayashi Atago Shrine located in the ruins site of Marumori Castle in Marumori Town, Miyagi Prefecture.
It is said that this kagura dance is a kind of Juni Kagura (the kagura with 12 plays), which originated in Izumo province (present-day Shimane Prefecture). The repertoire and the dancing styles of Tabayashi Kagura are typical to Juni Kagura. The repertoire comprises 12 plays, each of which celebrates the feats of gods from “Sarutahiko,” “Uzume,” “The God of Paddy Field” to “Izumogiri” about Susanoo no Mikoto.
This kagura dance is composed of two phases; the “torimonomai,” in which dancers wear no masks and have torimono (a thing to hold in a hand) such as sakaki (a branch of a holy tree) or a sword, and Shinno (sacred Noh), which is a masked dance dramas about sacred myths.
The kagura dances are performed to pray for peace of the land, a rich harvest and happiness as well as to drive away bad luck. The dances have handed down magnificence and elegance of the world of ancient mythology to the modern generations.
Eidai Kagura in the Sakaki Style is a traditional folk performing art handed down in the Ogame area in Tomiya Town, Miyagi Prefecture. This kagura has its origin in Aoso Kagura in the Sakaki Style handed down at Aoso Shrine in present-day Miyagino-ku in Sendai City. It is said that it was introduced to this area in 1848. Since then it has been dedicated to the deities at Kashima Atariwake Shrine, or popularly called Ogame Shrine, on the 3rd Sunday of April every year.
In this kagura dance, neither dialogues nor words are employed and everything is expressed only by movements. Dancers wear the Heian-period court dresses and hats and dance elegantly in Kyoto style. The repertoire includes 14 dances about sacred myths in Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) such as “Yamata no Orochi Taiji (Susanoo’s slayer of the eight-headed serpent)” and “Umisachihiko and Yamasachihiko.” The music ensemble is simply composed of Odaiko (a big drum), Kodaiko (a small drum) and a seven-holed Japanese flute.
There is a tradition that only the people living in the Ogame area are allowed to dance. Keeping up this tradition, the dance has been handed down to only 23 families in the area for 200 years until today. It really is a secret dance.
The area centering on Tatebayashi Castle located in Tatebayashi City, Gunma Pref. was a battle field from the Warring States period (1493-1573) to the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867). The castle is also called “Obiki (dragging tail) Castle,” which derives from a legend that Akai Terumitsu, the founder of the castle, once saved a young fox, and then a white fox, which was an embodiment of Inari, appeared in front of him and showed him where to build a castle by dragging its tail. The exact construction year is unknown but it is said to have been built some time during the 15th century. The castle was first referred to in the written record in 1471, when the Uesugi forces attacked this castle. After that the clans of Uesugi in Echigo (present-day Niigata Pref.), Takeda in Kai (Yamanashi Pref.), and Hojo in Sagami (Kanagawa Pref.) fought repeatedly in three way struggles to capture this castle. Finally in 1590, when Tokugawa Ieyasu marched in the Kanto region, the castle was given to Sakakibara Yasumasa, one of the 4 powerful retainers of Ieyasu. Since then, regarded as the traffic hinge that connected Edo and the Tohoku region and also as the place that produced Shogun, the castle had been resided alternately by the daimyos that were counted as one of the 7 powerful retainers of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The custom of 'kadomatsu' door decoration has been popular all over Japan since olden times.
Kadomatsu are placed in front of houses to welcome the New Year deity, purify the entrance and drive demons and evil spirits out. Originally, they were made from evergreen woods such as pine, cedar, beech and sakaki. But the prevalence of the use of pine has led to their naming as 'kadomatsu' ('gate pine').
'Pine lasts for 1000 years and bamboo for 10,000 years' is an old Japanese proverb. Pine and bamboo are popular materials for kadomatsu because people wish that Yorishiro, the place in which the deity lives, will last forever.
According to custom, kadomatsu should not be set up on 31st December. This is because it is not faithful to have only one day before welcoming the deity on New Year's Day. Moreover, the 29th should also be avoided because 'nine matsu' is the same pronunciation as 'wait for pain'. Usually, kadomatsu are set up by the 28th.