Get a deeper understanding of Hiroshima's most popular folk art
Q & A and Photo Session 18:45
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum Auditorium (B1)
Next to Shukkeien Garden
Kagura is a traditional performing art which celebrates and expresses gratitude for the bounties of nature.
The ancestors of the Japanese people believed that everything that happened was because of the gods. During the autumn harvest, crops were used as offerings to the gods and festivals were held all over Japan. These festivals included kagura as a gesture of gratitude to the gods for a plentiful harvest.
It was during this period in history that Shinto Shrines were being built around the country, and kagura spread with it. Today, the art and legacy of kagura continues in many different shapes and forms, passed down from generation to generation from the Shinto priesthood to the local community.
The Kagura you will see today is called “Geihoku Kagura”(Northern Hiroshima) and has been preserved and passed along in Hiroshima Prefecture through approximately 150 groups.
Furthermore, numerous competitions have been held and at present, it is the type of Kagura gathering the most attention.
Though the performers have to study and work, they attend practice two to three times a week and perform at festivals and events on the weekends.
There are said to be over 70 kagura plays at present, including prewar period programs and those created during the postwar period.
Musical accompaniment for kagura consists of a large and small drum, a gong, and a flute. Surprisingly, kagura has no sheet music. Instead, accompanists learn to play by watching and listening to their predecessors. This is also the reason why kagura music varies from troupe to troupe.
In addition to spoken dialogue, kagura also contains songs which are chanted during lively dance scenes. These songs are ancient Japanese songs which heavily reference Japan's beautiful landscapes and convey the emotions of the scene.
A Story About the Beginnings of a Unified Japan
About 1500 years ago, powerful family clan leaders battled fiercely for control of Japan. Those who were defeated fled deep into the mountains and dug holes into the earth, and were forced to live their lives like nothing more than tsuchigumo (legendary demon spiders of old who lived deep in the earth).
Hundreds of years passed, but the tsuchigumo remain steeped in rage against those in control of the country, and it is that rage which turned them into demons to avenge their long history of humiliation and seize power from the shogun. Minamoto-no-Raiko, the shogun at the time, was attacked by such a demon.
Despite being ill, the shogun is able to drive the demon back into the mountains using a powerful sword that had long been a family heirloom. Shogun Raiko then entrusts the sword to his retainers and sends them into the mountains to finish the tsuchigumo off for good.
Shogun Minamoto-no-Raiko, suffering from a terrible illness, sends his maid for some medicine. However, the tsuchigumo grows wise to this plan, and disguises himself as his maid, bringing him poison instead of medicine.
Believing it to be medicine, Raiko takes the poison and as it spreads through his body, the tsuchigumo reveals himself to be a demon and attacks the weakened shogun. Raiko uses all of his strength to defend himself with his sword and manages to get a good hit on the demon.
The injured demon flees back to his home in the mountains, however the shogun’s retainers are right on his heels with the heirloom sword in hand.
After a fierce battle between the demon and shogun’s retainers, the demon is at last defeated.
Yamata no Orochi
A Story of the Desperate Struggle to Grow Rice
This Kagura is a story about set in ancient Japan about the peoples’ desperate attempt to protect their rice fields from the ravages of a raging, flooded river. Rice, the staple of the Japanese diet, requires fertile soil, sunshine, and a sustainable, clean water source to flourish.
The eight-headed serpent, Yamata-no-Orochi, symbolizes the mountains and their plentiful reserves of water, as well as the water that flows from the mountains. Farmers plant rice seedlings in the spring and wait for the autumn, harvest season. However, if the summer is plagued by heavy rains before the harvest season, the rainwater rushes from the mountains and spills into the rice fields, flooding them and ruining the crops. Serious floods like these are being compared to the serpent swallowing a beloved daughter in the story.
An elderly couple is in mourning because their eighth daughter will be sacrificed to a serpent, but then a deity comes down to them from the heavens.
The deity promises to get rid of the serpent by having it drink poisoned sake and lulling it into a deep sleep. The elderly couple and their daughter dance in prayer for the plan’s success.
Then, from out of nowhere, the serpent appears and drinks all of the poisoned sake. The deity then faces the drunken serpent in battle.
Once the serpent is slayed, a sword appears in its belly, and the story ends with the sword being taken as a token of the deity’s victory, and later becomes a national treasure.
A Story of Revenge
About 1,000 years ago, the Japanese capital was in Kyoto. There, the aristocrats held great political power and lived in opulence, while the commoners outside the capital were left in poverty. A warrior named Taira-no-Masakado was outraged by the injustice of the gap between rich and poor and tried to create better life for people by establishing his own province in the eastern part of the country.
However, the Imperial Army quickly quashed his rebellion and Masakado and his clan were murdered. Takiyasha-hime is the tale of Masakado’ s daughter and her quest to see vengeance for the brutal murder of her father.
The weak Takiyasha-hime prays at a Shinto shrine in a ritual to gain the power of mystic sorcery.
Her prayers are answered, and she is imbued with a powerful magic from the gods. Takiyasha-hime returns to the Eastern Provinces to rally her followers to take vengeance for the murder of her father.
General Mitsukuni, the commander of the Imperial Army, sets out to the Eastern Province to defeat Takiyasha-hime.
Takiyasha-hime unleashes her newly acquired powers in a battle against Mitsukuni, but in the end, she is defeated just as her father was.
A Story Born from One of Japan's Most Beautiful Seasons
This Kagura performance illustrates how much the climates and seasons of Japan enrich the hearts of the Japanese people. Cold winters are followed by warm springs, bringing the beautiful pale pink and white cherry blossoms. Each year, small parties are held under the cherry trees, called “ hanami” (cherry blossom viewing parties). Hot and humid summers give way to crisp autumns and their vibrant red maple leaves, or “momiji.” Similar to hanami, small gatherings are also held under the maple leaves called “momiji-gari” (autumn foliage viewing parties).
The Shogun, Taira-no- Koremochi, sets out to see the autumn foliage.
Koremochi loses his way on Mt. Togakushi, so he asks a princess he meets for directions. Entranced by the beauty of the deep red maple leaves, he joins the princess’ momiji-gari.
Drunk on a little too much sake, Koremochi collapses, not realizing he has fallen prey to the evil magic of the princess, who is actually a demon in disguise. But just as Koremochi was about to be devoured by the demon, a god appears and saves his life.
After a fierce and intense battle, the demon is defeated by Koremochi.
Yamauba: A Tale of a Mother’s Love for Her Child
Almost 1,000 years ago, the capital of Japan was in Kyoto. Compared to the life of luxury that the aristocrats of the capital enjoyed, those outside the capital suffered in near poverty.
The story focuses on an old woman -- driven from the capital after the death of her husband, she takes her son to the mountains and raises him there. In her hatred of the decadent lifestyles of the capital aristocrats, she turns rogue and becomes vengeful bandit, terrorizing those who dare step foot into the mountains.
Soon the shogun, guardian of the capital, is sent to deal with the feared out law. The old woman and her son are no match for the powerful shogun, but he takes pity on the two of them after the old woman begs him to spare her son’s life. The shogun decides to take on her son as a retainer, giving him a better life.
Yamauba is the story of a parent’s love for their child.
The guardian of the capital, Shogun Raiko Minamoto, is sent to dispose of a fearsome mountain bandit but soon loses his way in the woods. He happens upon a house, owned by an old woman, and asks if he might take shelter there for the night.
Little did he know that the old woman was the feared mountain bandit, and both she and her son, Kaidomaru, attack Raiko while he’s resting.
Kaidomaru, sensing that this is not a battle they can win, tells his mother to flee while he remains to fight alone, but she instead begs the shogun to take her life and spare her son.
Raiko takes pity on the old woman and decides to welcome her son as his retainer Kaidomaru promises to make his mother proud and bids her farewellas he heads to the capital.
The Story of How a Demon Invader From Across the Seas was Vanquished
Our story begins 110 generations back from the current Emperor, with the reign of the 14th Emperor, Chuai. During his reign, an evil winged demon known as Jinrin launches an attack on Japan.
None among the people were strong enough to defeat the demon terrorizing the land, and so the Emperor himself stepped forward to vanquish the creature. The Emperor prays for a world without conflicts, a world in which his people can live in peace, and a world in which his people can live without fear. He defeats the Jinrin with an enchanted bow and arrow and saves Japan. Chuai is the father of Emperor Oujin who goes on to build the first of the Hachiman shrines, of which there are over 40,000 today.
An evil demon known as Jinrin launches an attack on Japan. He has two massive wings on his back and can fly as well as any bird.
With no one strong enough to defeat the Jinrin, the Emperor himself steps forward to vanquish the demon.
He fights the demon with an enchanted bow and arrow and is victorious, thus vanquishing the Jinrin and saving Japan.
Minamoto no Yorimasa
Minamoto-no-Yorimasa: The Tale of the Poet-Warrior General
About 1,000 years ago, the reigning Emperor was struck with a mysterious illness. The illness caused him great suffering and he would wail and moan as if possessed a malicious spirit. Every night, a thick black fog would rise over the Imperial Palace, and from deep within the darkness came the eerie howl of an ancient monster.
It was believed that this monster was the cause of the Emperor’s strange illness and so Minamoto-no-Yorimasa, a fierce warrior and master archer, was charged with the task of slaying the great monster.
Though an excellent archer, Minamoto-no- Yorimasa had never faced such a creature before. He called upon the power of the gods he had long served to guide his arrow and shot into the darkness. His prayers were heard and the arrow struck the creature in the fog, an ancient monster known as the Nue. With the creature vanquished, the Emperor’s mysterious illness was cured.
The Nue was said to have the head of a monkey, the limbs of a tiger, and a tail like a snake. The word “nue” is still used in Japanese today to describe something which is wildly imaginative or implausible; something which seems too outlandish to be true or real.
The tale of Yorimasa’s bravery and skill in defeating the Nue is one which was highly praised; it was claimed that the tale would be told for generations to come. However, being the skilled poet that he was, Yorimasa deflects the claim modestly in a poem, claiming it was nothing more than a lucky shot which felled the creature.
The General, Fujiwara-no-Yorinaga, realizes that the Emperor’s mysterious illness was caused by a creature lurking in the dark fog that surrounded the Palace each night and sends Minamoto-no- Yorimasa to slay the beast.
Minamoto-no-Yorimasa sets off to wipe out the monster with his faithful retainer, Ino Souta.
Minamoto-no-Yorimasa shoots an arrow into the dark fog and it strikes a fatal blow to the monster lurking within, the Nue.
Yorimasa’s bravery was highly praised as being a tale which would be told for generations to come, however, Yorimasa composes a tanka (a 31 syllable poem) which humbly claims it wasn’t his bravery or skill which felled the creature, it was merely a lucky shot.
Asahi-ga-Oka Kagura Troupe
Hailing from Asakita-ku in northern Hiroshima, we are the Asahi-ga-Oka Kagura Troupe. The troupe began in 1987 as part of an effort to preserve local performing arts, making us a relatively young troupe when compared to the others in Hiroshima. It is our mission to pass on our passion for kagura to the next generation by upholding and passing down the kagura of old and actively incorporating new elements into our performances. In that spirit, we take the stage today for a performance you won’t soon forget, so please, sit back and enjoy Hiroshima’s proudest traditional performing art.
Uegouchi Kagura Troupe
We are the Uegouchi Kagura Troupe from Midori-cho in Aki Takada-shi in northern Hiroshima. Founded in 1870 for the purpose of dedicating kagura performances to shrines in the Hongo area, our troupe mainly focuses on performances at local autumn festivals, however we also perform at kagura exhibitions and various other events. We also have a Kids Kagura Club and Women’s Kagura Club who also perform at local festivals in the area. We take the stage today to give you an unforgettable performance, so we hope you enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Naka-Kawado Kagura Troupe
We’re the Naka-kawado Kagura Troupe from Kita Hiroshima-cho in northern Hiroshima. The troupe was founded in 1875 to dedicate performances to shrines in the Haji area. In 1990’s, our troupe began creating original kagura performances, and we have been adding our own modern spin on traditional kagura plays ever since. With “from passing down for the sake of preservation, to passing on for the sake of creativity” as our motto, we work hard to develop our craft and deliver performances that will touch the hearts everywhere. It is in that spirit that we take the stage today, and we hope you’ll enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Ootsuka Kagura Troupe
We are the Ootsuka Kagura Troupe, and we’re from Kita Hiroshima-cho, located on the border between Hiroshima and Shimane. Originally formed in 1897 to dedicate performances to shrines in the Ootsuka area, the troupe performed in the traditional slow paced style from Western Shimane. However in 1950, the troupe began incorporating a more modern, fast paced style, which continues today. Our troupe works hard to ensure that our performances dazzle the community, and so we hope that you too will enjoy today’s performance of Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Yoshida Kagura Troupe
We are the Yoshida Kagura Troupe from Yoshida-cho in Aki Takada-shi, northern Hiroshima Prefecture. Yoshida-cho is known for its connection to the Moori family, who built Hiroshima Castle. The troupe was founded in 1971, making it a relatively young troupe.
Currently, there are 23 active members who perform at shrines and events around the prefecture. We also take an active role in not just passing down local performing arts and culture, but in developing it further with our Kids Kagura program.
We are here to give you an unforgettable show, so please, sit back and enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Yachiyo Kagura Troupe
We are the Yachiyo Kagura Troupe from Yachiyo-cho in Akitakata-shi in northern Hiroshima. Founded in 1870 to dedicate performances to shrines in the Haji area, the troupe began by performing a unique style of local kagura. While the troupe temporarily disbanded due to the construction of the Haji Dam, they reunited in 1975 to preserve this rare and wonderful style of kagura.
Comprised of 17 members who practice 3 times a week, our troupe prides itself on its autumn festival performances, and also performs at events around the prefecture. We’ve got a great show for you, so we invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Tenjin Kagura Troupe
We are from Midori-cho in Akitakata City, located in northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. Our troupe was established to dedicate Kagura performances to a 500-year-old shrine in the northern district of town.
Since there is no record of when the kagura troupe was founded, the precise details are unknown; however, the troupe is believed to have been active from as far back at the 1900s. In addition, we were designated as an Intangible Folk Culture Asset by Hiroshima Prefecture in 1979.
Our troupe has inherited a treasured legacy from our ancestors and we work hard to make sure we honor that legacy today with every performance.
We're here to do our best to make sure we give you an unforgettable performance of Hiroshima's finest traditional performing art.
Asakita Kagura Troupe
The Asakita Kagura Troupe is composed of 7 different kagura troupes located in Asakita-ku, north of Hiroshima City. Members of each troupe hold down day jobs in addition to performing kagura, making weekday performances a little tricky.
So we’ve gathered university students and independent business owners who can take time out of their busy schedules to perform here today for all of our guests visiting from abroad in order to give you a small sample of the stunning traditional performing art that is kagura. We promise you an unforgettable show today, and we hope you enjoy it.
Yasuno Kagura Troupe
We are the Yasuno Kagura Troupe, and we’re from Akioota-cho, located in northern Hiroshima Prefecture.
The troupe, which has a rich history of over 100 years, was founded in 1909 to dedicate kagura performances to shrines in the area. Specializing mainly in the slow paced kagura of western Shimane Prefecture, we perform at autumn festivals and kagura exhibitions, as well as several different events throughout the year. Together with passing down the rich traditions and legacy of kagura, we strive to mix in elements of modern kagura as well.
It is with that spirit that we take the stage today, and we hope you enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Miyanoki Kagura Troupe
From the Asakita Ward, located in the northern part of Hiroshima City,
our troupe was established in 1998 to dedicate kagura performances to a shrine in the Nohara District in Asakita.
The troupe faced a number of difficulties in the beginning, such as lack of costumes and manpower. However, thanks to guidance from other kagura troupes and the support of local residents, we have grown from six members to twenty, and perform over 50 times over the course of the year.
One of our top priorities is fostering our younger members, continuing
to pass on the tradition of kagura as a local performing art to future generations, as well as remembering our humble beginnings.
We give every performance our very best, and will of course continue
to do so today. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy Hiroshima’s proud traditional performing art.
Kawakita Kagura Troupe
We are the Kawakita Kagura Troupe from Aki Oota-cho in northern Hiroshima. Founded in 1893 for the purpose of dedicating kagura performances to shrines in our area, we started out with just nine members in the beginning.
In 1993, our troupe celebrated its 100th anniversary. In commemoration of our 100th year, we've revived the long-lost very first kagura program, which was designated as an Intangible Folk Culture Asset.
We take the stage today to give you an unforgettable performance, so we hope you enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Higashiyama Kagura Troupe
Hailing from Kita-Hiroshima, located to the north of Hiroshima City, our troupe was established in 1963 to dedicate Kagura performances to a shrine in the Ishiidani District of Kita Hiroshima.
There was a time when we were forced to break up the troupe due to
lack of members, however, thanks to support from the community, we
now have the opportunity to perform at various shrines and events.
While we’re far from perfect, we strive to bring an exciting Kagura experience to the stage, and to keep the tradition of Kagura alive for future generations.
We give every performance our very best, and will of course continue to do so today. So please enjoy Kagura, Hiroshima’s proud traditional performing art.
Matsubara Kagura Troupe
We are from Aki-Ota City, located in northwestern part of Hiroshima Prefecture.
Our troupe was established to dedicate Kagura performance to a shrine in Matsubara District. While the exact year of establishment is unknown, there are records of the troupe's performances from before 1868 (the Meiji Restoration).
We have 18 members currently, and we strive to preserve the traditional style of kagura at the many festivals and shrines we perform at.
Tonight, we're here to show you the best of traditional kagura, so we hope you'll enjoy Hiroshima's finest performing art.
Tsunami Kagura Troupe
We are the Tsunami Kagura Troupe from Aki Oota-cho in northern Hiroshima. Founded in 1931 to dedicate performances to local shrines, the troupe performs in the traditional slow paced style of Western Shimane at various autumn festivals, kagura exhibitions, and events. In 1982, we were awarded the prestigious Hiroshima Cultural Award.
While we’re still growing as a troupe, we put our heart and soul into every performance in the hopes of further developing this wonderful local culture, and we hope that you’ll enjoy the finest in Hiroshima traditional performing art.
Kinshou Kagura Troupe
We are the Kinshou Kagura Troupe, hailing from Kita Hiroshima-cho, north of Hiroshima City. The troupe consists of 19 members and was formed to dedicate performances to shrines in the Toyohira area of the city.
While still performing the kagura of old, we also take part in modern stage productions of kagura, and in 2010, our troupe created a kagura play based on the theme of the Itsukushima Shrine, a world heritage site in Hiroshima prefecture.
Your support is what keeps us going, and we’re here to deliver a show you won’t forget; so sit back and enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
Suzuhari Kagura Troupe
We are the Suzuhari Kagura Troupe from Asakita-ku in northern Hiroshima City, founded in 1951 to dedicate performances to shrines in the Haji area.
From the beginning, the community has played in active role in our troupe, including costume and prop donations, and we strive to give back to that community by staying active and giving local performances, such as the yearly autumn festival.
Through the art of kagura and kagura performances, it is our goal as a troupe to carry on the tradition of our ancestors to the next generation. It is in that spirit that we take the stage today, and we hope you’ll enjoy Hiroshima’s finest traditional performing art.
April 14 (Sat) Takiyasha-hime by the Tenjin Kagura Troupe
April 15 (Sun) Tsuchigumo by the Asahigaoka Kagura Troupe
April 21 (Sat) Tsuchigumo by the Higashiyama Kagura Troupe
April 22 (Sun) Takiyasha-hime by the Ootsuka Kagura Troupe
April 28 (Sat) Katsuragi-zan by the Yachiyo Kagura Troupe
April 29 (Sun) Momiji-gari by the Uegochi Kagura Troupe
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
Hiroshima Prectural Art Museum
Next to Shukkeien Garden
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