When you think of Japanese performing the first thing that comes to mind is probably Kabuki. But “kagura” (dance) are also popular for enacting famous folktales and mythology.
In this feature, we introduce “Iwamikagura” (石見神楽) from the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture.
A massive snake-like puppet called Orochi (大蛇) is one of the many deities and demons from Japanese mythology. In this performance, you see Yamata-no-Orochi, an eight-headed, eight-tailed serpent being killed by Susanoo, a heroic deity, to save Princess Inada.
Susanoo had descended in Izumo where he met an old couple who were sad because seven of their eight daughters had been taken away by Yamata-no-Orochi. The eight daughter was also destined to be taken away but Susanoo promised to fight off the serpent by feeding poisoned liquor. When the serpent came to look for the daughter, he found eight tubs of sake and drank them all, putting him in a drunken state. Susanoo then chopped the serpent into pieces.
Iwamikagura is performed wearing colorful costumes and masks of various facial expressions. There are more than 30 kinds of performances enacting ancient stories of Japan from the Kojiki (古事記) and the Nihongi Shoki (日本書紀). Although a traditional art form, the dance is quite different from the elegant Japanese-style odori (dance). Iwamikagura is storytelling that is purely entertaining.
Even if you don’t understand Japanese, you can enjoy the rhythmic accompaniments of the flutes, drums and savor the flamboyance of the performance.