Popularly called “Chiryu Daimyojin,” Chiryu Shrine in Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture, was one of the three distinctive shrines on the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). The shrine possesses a lot of precious cultural properties including the Tahoto pagoda, which is thought to have been built in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and masks for Maigaku (court music), Noh plays and Shishi-mai (lion dance).
Among the renowned festivals held at this shrine, Akiba (Autumn Leaf) Festival in September every year serves as the annual festival of Akiba Shrine, a sub-shrine located in the precinct of Chiryu Shrine. According to the shrine festival record written in 1758, the kagura dance and ningyo-joruri (doll plays) were dedicated as the autumn festival in conformity to the Grand Festival of the main shrine in spring,
The main feature of Akiba Festival today is the display of tube fireworks, which started to be dedicated in 1907. During the day, young men of six towns of the city shoulder the box called “Tama-bako (ball case),” in which the stone representing a firework ball is placed, and valiantly parade through the city, singing “Nagamochi-uta.” When they return to the shrine in the evening, they stand in circle and display dynamic tube fireworks.
Kagura is a traditional theatrical dance in the Shinto religion and Musashi Mitake Shrine Daidai Kagura is one of these dances that have been passed down since the Edo period. Musashi Mitake Shrine sits on the top of Mount Mitake in Okutame, Tokyo.
The dance is said to have originally come from the Masaki Inari Shrine in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, and it is based on the Izumo-style of Kagura dance.
The shrine still serves many different kinds of “kou” each of which represents a group of followers. The people in a kou believe that the highest form of praying to their god is to dedicate a dance and Daidai Kagura is performed on special occasions.
There are two different types of performing style in Kagura dance. In one type, masks are worn and in the other they are not. Masked Kagura has more of an entertainment aspect with clear story lines, many of which are based on popular mythologies from folktales such as Kojiki. The non-masked dance has a more religious or ritualistic aspect and it is performed to purge the place of evil spirits. These two dance performances used to have 12 titles each, however only 17 in total have survived and are still performed.
Because Daidai Kagura is dedicated to god, the dancers kneel down and bow at the start and at the end of their dance. Also, all of these dances are performed facing the image of god.
Daidai Kagura preserves the essence of true Kagura which encourages people to enjoy themselves while they honor god.
Koshio Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down since the Edo period (1603-1868) in Koshio in the Ina area, Minamiaizu Town, Fukushima Prefecture. It is designated as an important intangible folk cultural property by the town.
The kagura began in 1827 as the votive performance to Ichinomiya Katori Shrine, a branch shrine of Katori Shrine, which was the highest-ranked shrine in Kazusa province (present Sawara City in Chiba Prefecture).
The repertoire includes the kagura dance, the Hyottoko dance, the Okame dance, the Shoki dance and Watonai. Presently, volunteers of Koshio Kagura Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down the tradition. Visitors can see and lean the kagura dance at the town hall all through the year.
Zemanjo Kagura Dance is a traditional dance pertaining to the legend of Yamato Takeru. It has been handed down at Yatsurugi Shrine in Zemanjo-cho in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. The Dance is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the prefecture. According to the shrine record, Yatsurugi Shrine was founded in 1266 by Fujiwara no Hiromasa, and Zemanjo Kagura Dance was already performed at the shrine festival in 1751 as a dedication to its principal deity, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto.
Legend has it that, when Yamato Takeru was on his way to the eastern land to put down the barbarians, the sea was so rough that his troop could not voyage to the opposite shore. Ototachibanahime no Mikoto prayed to the sea god and performed a dance and then threw herself into the sea to appease the rage of the sea god.
In Zemanjo Kagura, two dancers playing the roles of the devil wearing a lion mask and a woman’s kimono and a man named Saizo. The kagura starts with Saizo’s comical Lion Dance to get away the devil by pleasing him. Then the quiet dance of “Suzu-no-mai (Bell Dance)” is performed. After that several dances from Kabuki plays are performed on another stage.
The annual festival of Chunobori Shrine is held on the last Sunday of September every year. Chunobori Shrine in Gokase Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, was originally founded at the top of Mt. Chunobori. It was integrated into Sankasho Shrine in the town in the late Meiji period (1868-1912) and was separated again and relocated to the present place in the later years.
The main dedication, the Araodori dance, is first performed at the annual festival of Sankasho Shrine held on the previous day and then at Chunobori Shrine on Sunday. The dancers in warrior costumes and carrying spears, bows and arrows, or guns dance valiantly in line and quietly in circle. It is said that the dance was introduced from Enozan Senkoji Temple in the town during the Tensho era (1573-1592) and has been handed down at these shrines for 400 years. It is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the national government.
The Nyuta Kagura Dance is performed at Nyuta Shrine in Shintomi Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, in February every year as a Shinto ritual to pray for a rich harvest.
Although the shrine was destroyed by a battle fire in 1578, it was reconstructed in 30 years and has been worshipped as the guardian god of the town until today. The enshrined deity is Hikohohodemi no Mikoto. The origin of the Kagura dance is unknown because the old documents are lost.
The Kagura dances are dedicated as “Tata Kagura” at the spring grand festival of Nyuta Shrine and at every shrine in town during the autumn festival season. At the grand festival, a 5-meter square stage is set up in the precinct, where 33 dances are performed. The most attractive scene is the “Hebi-kiri (snake cutting),”in which Tajikarao no Mikoto cuts a straw snake down to the ground with a sword.
The Miyabukuro Masutori-mai dance is a folk performing art handed down in Furukawa Omiya in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. The dance has been performed in many places in the prefecture since the ancient times as the dance called Hayashi-mai performed at celebratory occasions, in which dancers dance with auspicious compliments. It was introduced to this area from the southern part of the prefecture in 1942 and has been dedicated to the god at Miyabukuro Shikagamo Shrine in September every year to pray and thank for a rich harvest.
The dancers wearing hanten (kimono-styled jacket), momohiki (pants), tasuki (a cord to tuck up sleeves), hachimaki (hair band) and red and white tabi (Japanese socks) dance to the song and the sounds of Japanese drums and gongs with exaggerated actions of measuring rice with a masu (rice-measuring box) in their hands. “Jester,” who is a personified rice-field god, joins the dance in the middle of the performance, and everyone on the stage prays for a rich harvest and throws red and white rice cake to the audience in the finale.
The Nageta Kagura dance is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Ishikoshi Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is performed to pray for peace and stability of the country and a rich harvest of the year. Nageta Kagura is designated as an important intangible cultural property by the city.
Nageta Kagura belongs to the Izumo-styled Kagura dance, to which the elements of Nanbu kagura dance were added. The Izumo-styled kagura dance is composed of three phases; the ritual play “Okina” of the traditional Nohgaku, the “torimonomai” used in Shichiza rituals and Shinno (sacred Noh), which is a masked performance of sacred myths and shrine omens. It spread from the Izumo region to all over the country including the Tohoku region, where it was combined with the local Nanbu Kagura dance.
The Nanbu kagura dances have been danced mainly in the areas from the northern part of Iwate Prefecture to the southern part of Miyagi Prefecture. It is composed of the Shikimai ritual dances and drama plays, in which local legends and folk tales are expressed both with dancing and chanting.
The repertories of Nageta Kagura include Ushiwakamaru, Sanbaso, Godai-Ryuo (the five dragon gods), the Kamioroshi dance (the dance to ask the god to descent to their land) and the Bird Dance. Presently the Nageta Kagura troupe has delivered some innovative performances such as the collaboration with the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra.