Kagura Dance


Kagura Dance (kagura)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Observance


Kagura Dance and Music are part of the Shinto Rituals for the Gods, relating to ancient legends and were performed by priests and shrine maidens.
Now in some rural areas it is counted as a form of local art (minzoku geinoo) and preformed by the villagers themselves during the annual shrine festival. Some are are more like festive folk-drama. The area of Chichibu is especially known for its local kagura.

Some performances last more than one day. Even children perform in local kagura performances (kodomo kagura 子供神楽).

Masks made from Japanese paper (washi) are used and most old costumes are very precious.

There are various kagura types throughout Japan, read my article here:
Kagura Dance 日本の神楽

Gabi Greve




Kagura: Dance to the Gods, by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers
WKD Library


kigo for the New Year

hatsu kagura 初神楽 (はつかぐら) first Kagura performance
..... kagura hajime 神楽始(かぐらはじめ)

Shinto music and dancing for the New Year,
dai kagura 太神楽

lion dance, shishi mai 獅子舞
lion's head [worn in the lion dance] shishigashira 獅子頭

hearth-purification, kamadoharai 竈祓


kigo for mid-summer

natsu kagura 夏神楽 (なつかぐら) summer kagura dance
nagoshi no kagura 名越の神楽(なごしのかぐら)
nagoshi kagura 夏越神楽(なごしかぐら)Kagura to pass over summer
kawayashiro 河社(かわやしろ)"shrine by the river"
..... 川社(かわやしろ)


kigo for mid-winter

kagurazuki 神楽月(かぐらづき)"month with Kagura"

another name for the lunar eleventh month, now
December (juunigatsu)

. Kagura 神楽 (かぐら) Kagura dance  
..... kami asobi 神遊び(かみあそび)Gods enjoying themselves
..... kagura uta 神楽歌(かぐらうた)kagura song
mikagura 御神楽(みかぐら) Court-style of kagura
niwabi 庭燎(にわび)Kagura in the garden or park of a palace
sato kagura 里神楽 (さとかぐら) Shinto-style of kagura
yokagura 夜神楽 (よかぐら) Kagura dance at night
..... kagura yado 神楽宿(かぐらやど)place where kagura is performed
..... hosha 祝者(ほしゃ)"person celebrating"

. Takachiho Yokagura 高千穂 夜神楽
Night Kagura Dance of the Takachiho Region .



Tooyama no shimotsuki matsuri 遠山の霜月祭
Toyama festival in the
shimotsuki month
..... shimotsuki matsuri 霜月祭(しもつきまつり)festival in the shimotsuki month
..... Tooyama matsuri 遠山祭(とおやままつり) Toyama festival

shimotsuki, month with frost, now December
This festival was held from early December till the beginning of the New Year, in the village of Toyama in Nagano.

yudate kagura 湯立て神楽

In yudate kagura water is boiled in a cauldron, around which gods are summoned by means of liturgical dances. Many of these festivals are performed in the winter and continue through an entire night; at daybreak the hot water is scattered over the participants, and those touched by it are cleansed of the year’s pollution and reborn in a purified state.
source : kagurakagura.

. Shoo Hachimanguu 正八幡宮 Sho Hachimangu .
Tooyama no shimotsuki matsuri 遠山の霜月祭

hanamatsuri, hana matsuri 花祭 (はなまつり)
flower festival

Mikawa hanamatsuri 三河花祭(みかわはなまつり)
hana kagura 花神楽(はなかぐら)flower kagura

sakaki oni 榊鬼(さかきおに)Sakaki demon

Yudate kagura are perfomed in other shrines of Japan, as a "flower festival".

. sakaki さかき【榊】 sakaki tree, Cleyera japonica .
and the Sakaki demon


The torimono of torimono kagura refers to objects held in the hands of dancers. This category includes liturgical dances in which a mask is not worn, such as purification dances, dances for summoning a god and dances for bidding farewell to a god, as well as dances in which a mask is worn to signify that a god has appeared. From the beginning of the 17th century, under the influence of the highly successful Noh theater form, dances on mythical subjects similar in form to masked dramas became popular.

Shishi kagura (lion kagura)
are lion dances that were transmitted from the continent and have undergone changes in Japan. A god is called upon to reside in the lion’s head, and the lion goes through the village, stopping at each house to perform a ritual prayer dance. Even today, the lion dance group “Ise Daikagura” continues to perform around Western Japan in a form that has remained virtually unchanged for 400 years. In the Tohoku region as well, during certain periods of the year, a few remaining shishi kagura groups continue to make their rounds.


source : kagurakagura.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


天高し 狐も出でしい 村神楽

ten takashi - kitsune mo ideshi mura kagura

bright autumn sky -
even a fox appears at
the local shrine dance

heller Herbsthimmel -
sogar ein Fuchs erscheint
beim Dorf-Shreintanz

in Chichibu, near Tokyo
Gabi Greve

Related words

***** . SAIJIKI



Unknown said...

thank you so much for sharing Kagura scene.
In my boyhood Shrine dancing team come to every one's house for celebrating the New Year.
They wear the awfull masks and attacked small children in their
playing dance.
It was my old dream.


Gabi Greve said...

. KAGURA at Shiarishi Island, by Amy Chavez, January 2006 .

I heared part of this kagura on local radio. It must have been a phantastic atmosphere!

Gabi Greve

Anonymous said...

Dance the kagura
twelve skulls taken from boars
offered on the altar

in the tatami parlor
your nose is too long


The Ama no Iwato Shrine, in Takachiho, derives its name from a myth recorded in the early chronicle Kojiki (712) in which the solar deity Amaterasu Ōmikami takes her glorious light from the world and shuts herself up in the cavern Ama no Iwato (Rock Door of the Heavens). Ama no Iwato is the name both of the Shrine and of one of thirty-three yokagura—an all-night performance in mask of a cycle of dramas accompanied by song and dance that is put on some fifteen or twenty times each year during the winter months.


Kagura are accompanied by the songs (seri uta) of a group of young men who urge the dancers on to a pitch of excitement. A verse of one of their songs goes: “Koyosa yokagura nya serototekitaga sainā sera nyasokonoke washigaseru nonnokosai sai yoisassa tokoigasassa yoisassa. (“You said you wanted us to sero your Yokagura tonight. We said we would and here we are so, nonnokosai sai yoisassa tokoigasassa yoisassa.”)

Tateo Fukutomi, translated by David P. Dutcher

anonymous said...

Iwami Kagura

Mask maker keeping Shimane tradition alive

Hanging on the walls of Jake Davies' home are around 20 artifacts that seem at odds with the idyllic village in Sakurae, Shimane Prefecture where his rustic abode is set.
"Everyone around here puts them up as gargoyles, to keep the evil spirits out of their house," says Davies, 56, who hails from Coventry, England. "So there'll be a 'Hannya,' the female demon, or 'Shoki,' the demon queller, and so on. They are everywhere — even at railway stations."

Iwami-kagura is one of several types of kagura (literally, god-entertainment), a ceremonial dance whose roots can be found in shamanic possession rites originally performed by priests.


Gabi Greve said...

yokagura no hatetaru hokuto shichisei yo

way above
the night Kagura dance
the Big Dipper !

Kobayashi Takako 小林貴子

Gabi Greve said...

宮乃木神楽団「岩見重太郎」 Kagura dance
Iwami Juntaro

Gabi Greve said...

Kagura Map search site such as various kagura preservation groups, photographs and public announcements;
神楽マップ--神楽(かぐら)- 全国神楽協議会

Gabi Greve said...

Miyazaki 東臼杵郡 Higashi-Usuki district 諸塚村 Morotsuka

yamamori 山守 warden of the mountain

At the Toshita Kagura 戸下神楽 dance from Toshita there is a piece named Yamamori.
He comes with a special 隠れ蓑 straw raincoat (which makes him invisible), a special straw hat and a sword to protect the mountain villagers.
This is said to be the origin of Yamanokami.

Gabi Greve said...

Oita 大分県 川崎村 Kawasaki village
Yabugami 藪神 / ヤブガミ Kami of the thicket,
Kami of the bamboo grove

Koichirogami 小一郎神 Koichiro no Kami
He is a kind of yashikigami 屋敷神 "estate deity" in Northern Kyushu.
Before he was venerated as Yabugami, many people in the village were very ill.
There is also a forest for him, 小一郎森 Koichiro Mori.
Once the home of an ishiku 石工 stone mason was hit by a fire, but there was no reason for a fire to break out in the first place and no strong wind either. So he had a divination about his fate. He had often taken stones ouf of the Koichiro Moir and the deity was angry. He had promised to have a 神楽 Kagura performance for the Deity but forgotten to keep his promise, so his home burned down
- and
- at 大神村 the village Ogamura
The 佐藤家f Sato family venerated Koichirogami in their estate forest.
In November they held a festival in his honor and prayed to all the deities in the region.

Koichiro Jinja 小一郎神社 Koichiro Shinto Shrine
a famous place in Sada 佐田の名所

Gabi Greve said...

. Horaijima 蓬莱島 a mythical island of eternal youth .
In a Kyogen performance for 節分 Setsubun rituals in Spring, an Oni 鬼 demon comes from Horaijima Island. He is tricked by a woman who snatches his kakuremino 隠れ蓑 straw raincoat (which makes him invisible). Then she throws Setsubun ritual beans at him to drive him out.