Published on Oct 18, 2012
William Lee, Associate Professor and Director of Asian Studies Centre at the University of Manitoba, shares 5 Things You Need to Know About Kuromori Kagura in preparation for the upcoming programs to be held at the Japan Society.
1. What is kagura?
Kagura, written with characters meaning "god music", is one of the oldest of Japanese performing arts involving ritual means of communicating with or praying to the gods.
2. What types of kagura are there?
There are thousands of kagura traditions throughout Japan including: miko kagura, performed by shrine priestesses, torimono kagura where performers use various objects, yudate kagura, based around a water boiling ritual, and shishi kagura where performers wear a lion head mask during their dance.
3. What types of kagura are in the Tohoku region?
Many of the kagura from the Tohoku region are shishi kagura and can be identified by particular traits which vary by prefecture. For example you, will find yamabushi kagura in Iwate prefecture, nomai in Aomori, and bangaku in the Akita prefecture. Yamabushi kagura comes from the ascetic cult of the yamabushi or "mountain warriors" who played a vital part in the spread of kagura throughout Japan.
4. What is Kuromori kagura?
Kuromori is the name of both a mountain and shrine in the Iwate prefecture just outside the city of Miyako. This kagura tradition has been taking place for centuries and holds two of the oldest lion heads in the Tohoku region. The Kuromori kagaura troupe is one of the most skilled groups today and is one of the few remaining groups who continues the traditional tour circuit which extends up and down the Iwate coast.
5. How has 3/11 affected Kuromori kagura?
Miyako was devastated by the tsunami which killed over 400 people. Fortunately, none of the members from the Kuromori kagura troupe lost their lives. However, many of them suffered losses as their homes and fishing boats were destroyed along with several of their performance locations including houses and community centers which were along their traditional tour circuit. Despite the tragedy, Kuromori kagura continues to perform in Japan and abroad and stands as a symbol of resilience of the people from the Tohoku region.