Tokyobling's Blog

Kaguramai – Sacred Dance – Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Uncategorized by tokyobling on September 28, 2015

The famous Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a very nice three day culture festival during the weekend and I was there to enjoy the display of traditional sacred dances, the Kaguramai (神楽舞). Each day had between one and two hours of a few sets of dances, performed by one to four dancers. Some of the dances were very rare and not something most people are likely to see even once in their lives here in Japan. Once again Yasukuni brings the most sacred of traditions to the general public, and free of charge as usual. Thank you, Yasukuni Shrine!


Urayasu Dance – Nezu Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 29, 2013

Most of the branches of Kagura dance (the ritualistic dances and performances you see performed at native Japanese shrines and festivals as well as the imperial court) are ancient, many have been performed so long that their roots disappear well into mythological times. One branch however, the Urayasu dance (浦安の舞) of the Mikokagura (Kagura performed by shrine maidens, miko), is an absolute newcomer, having only started in 1940. In order to celebrate the 2600 year anniversary of the imperial lineage (this number is controversial among historians since many of the earlier emperors are considered semi-mythological) it was decided that shrine maidens all over the country (including the ones in Taiwan and Korea) should perform a ceremonial dance to be known as Urayasu. “Ura” is the ancient Japanese word for heart, and “Yasu” is one of the ancient terms used to name the country (I think). On November 10th at 10:00 all shrines performed this ceremony simultaneously. The tradition of the dance has lived on since then, but it is now performed during regular festivals at any time during the year. The costumes are some of the most complicated and it is only in recent years that shrines have been able to raise the money to make enough costumes so that even very young dancers can wear them. I saw these young girls (maybe 11 years old?) perform the Urayasu at the Nezu shrine festival a couple of weeks ago, and the costumes looked a bit too large for them! There are some items associated to the dance, the bough, the bells and the blade, all purely ceremonial of course.

Some of the larger shrines sometimes have Mikokagura performances during wedding ceremonies, and some miko usually dress up in these costumes for parades, but if you have the chance to see a properly performed Urayasu dance, take it! They are not all that common!





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