Shinmai or new style kagura dance is one of this region’s most vibrant cultural attractions. Hiroshima’s kagura heartland is in the north of the prefecture, where the art form is enjoying a renaissance, with troupes supported by passionate fans in just about every town and village.
The folk tales acted out may be the same as those played in kabuki and noh theaters, but the drum rhythms, colorful costumes, energetic choreography and special effects make kagura far more accessible. This is folk art for the masses and it is great fun.
As accessible as Hiroshima Kagura is, as with most Japanese cultural phenomena, a modicum of background knowledge hugely enhances enjoyment. With this in mind, the An Evening of Kagura English Kagura Experience has been organized with the needs of non-Japanese speaking visitors in mind. Around 40 times a year (mostly on Saturday and Sundays) kagura troupes come to the city to perform some of the most popular, crowd-pleasing kagura plays.
The shows are held in the basement of Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, conveniently located next to Shukkei-en Garden, and are preceded by short explanations in English. There is even a screen next to the stage which displays a simple explanation what is happening on stage.
The selected plays are some of kagura’s greatest hits. They highlight the skill of the players, Hiroshima Kagura’s lightning fast costume and mask changes, special effects, and feature some the most fearsome demons in the canon.
After the 45 minute show, audience members can ask the players questions with the help of an expert interpreter. The experience ends with the opportunity to take a closer look at and try on the elaborate kagura costumes and take souvenir photographs.
At ¥1000, it really is excellent value and highly recommended for visitors and local international residents who would like to know more about this fascinating art form.
Reservations are not required and tickets go on sale in the basement of Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum at 17:00. Shows start at 18:00 and are followed by Q&A and photo sessions at around 18:45.
Schedule of performances
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
May 6 (Sun) Yamata no Orochi by the Tsunami Kagura Troupe
May 21 (Mon) Yamata no Orochi by the Asakita Kagura Troupe
May 27 (Sun) Takiyasha-hime by the Ootsuka Kagura Troupe
June 10 (Sun) Tsuchigumo by the Kinshou Kagura Troupe
June 23 (Sat) Katsuragi-zan by the Yachiyo Kagura Troupe
June 25 (Sun) Yamata no Orochi by the Asakita Kagura Troupe
June 30 (Sat) Yamata no Orochi by the Matsubara Kagura Troupe
July 1 (Sat) Minamoto no Yorimasa by the Suzuhari Kagura Troupe
July 21 (Sat) Takiyasha-hime by the Naka-kawado Kagura Troupe
July 28 (Sat) Tsuchigumo by the Kinshou Kagura Troupe
July 29 (Sun) Momiji-gari by the Miyanoki Kagura Troupe
August 4 (Sat) Jinrin by the Kawakita Kagura Troupe
August 11 (Sat) Tsuchigumo by the Higashiyama Kagura Troupe
August 12 (Sun) Yamauba by the Yasuno Kagura Troupe
August 18 (Sat) Takiyasha-hime by the Yoshida Kagura Troupe
Dates in September, October and November to be confirmed.