Report: Would you mind spending a calm day at a place away from urban noise ? ~4 kaguras in Kanto area in spring~ vol.1


 Toiday, I’ll introduce 4 kafuras which is held in the most beautiful season of blossoming cherries within 2 hours from Tokyointroduce.

introduce four kaguras (Japnanese traditional folk performing art) in cherry blossoms blooming season

 If you ask some Japanese which season is the best to visit, most people will answer that it is for the blooming cherry blossoms.
 In this season, cherry blossoms begin to cover Japan starting from the south region and moving up north for two months. The bolssoming status in each region is reported on TV or radio. Many people go out, dressed a new in spring clothes upon hearing such.
 The mountains, the rivers, the towns all views change from dark color to pale pink.

a shrine with cherry blossoms in Kamakura
a shrine with cherry blossoms in Kamakura
cherry blossoms cover Tokyo
cherry blossoms cover Tokyo

 Through out history, people have loved cherry blossoms. One famous poet composed the poem (waka 和歌) which reads “Hopefully, I will die under the blossoms in the spring time.” And another poet said;
“If it were not for/ cherry blossoms in the world/ How peaceful and calm/ The heart in spring could be.”
 confer ;
 The cherry trees has had strong influence on Japanese lifestyles. The cherry trees represent, so to speak, Japanese culture itself. In this season, if you see traditional kagura 神楽, you can grasp the whole Japanese culture in one day.

 The following 4 kaguras will be taken up here today. Every kagura is held in April.

Fuji sengen shrine Daidai Kagura on the 1st Fujioka city, Gunma prefecture
Iidama shrine Daidai Kagura on the 2nd Maebashi city, Gunma prefecture
Yamanashi oka shrine Daidai Kagura on the 4th Fuefuki city, Yamanashi prefecture
Kamiyamakawa Daidai Kagura on the 5th Yuki city, Ibaraki prefecture

 I guess that each kagura is worth watching. You can feel Japanese culture, besides you can get a lot of good luck fortune. THis is not metaphor. Of course, you can get a mystical feeling in a shrine. Moreover, you can get many “good luck” items. This is why “mochimaki” is held while kagura’s at all these shrines. What is “mochimaki” ? Please read the following text if you wish know more about it.

Sarutahiko and Modoki visit a  Fujisengen shrine
Modoki (Hyottoko) and Sarutahiko

 These two people seem ready to guide you, this time. Then, could you two introduce yourselves, please ?

Sarutahiko is my name, from Ohmiya sumiyoshi kagura in Sakado city, Saitama prefecture. And let me tell you first of all , I am not human being, I am a deity, OK?

My name is Modoki, sometimes I am called Hyottoko. I am often called the comic or clown in festival.

 Well, let’s go to watch kagura with them.

1. Fuji-sengen shrine Daidai kagura

Date; 1st, April
Location; Fujioka town 1152, Fujioka city, Gunma prefecture
Access; 10-minutes walk from Fujioka 藤岡 station (JR line), To get to Fujilka from Tokyo, you take Ueno-Tokyo line (JR line, bound for Takasaki), and change at Kurakano 倉賀野 for Hachiko line 八高線. It takes about 2 hours.

Gunma  prefecture location map
Gunma prefecture
access to Fujioka city map
from Tokyo to the shrine

 *This article is written based on the experience when the writer visited the place in 2016. The program procedures are basically the every year.

Fujioka station
Fujioka station
Fujioka city's street
cherry blossoms on the street
the entrance of shrine

How beautiful the cherry trees are!

There are few cherry blossoms trees in the precinct Shinto shrine..


People often plant evergreen trees because these are thought to live forever just like deities. But, in this shrine, the entrance area has many cherry blossoms, the beauty of which delights visitors.

So I guess the cherry trees were thought superior to faith?

shine's view
the view from the Hon-den

First half

Hon-den of shrine
the Hon-den

 The precinct is wide. Main hall (Hon-den 本殿) is at the center. This building is on a hill which overlooks the view of whole precinct. This hill is old grave. This kagura-den 神楽殿 (hall for playing kagura) is right in front of the main hall. This building has two stories, the stage is on the second floor. You can watch from under the hall or from the main hall. which is a little away.
 The kagura starts at 11:30 am on schedule.

Quite a few people gathered more than I expected. Especially the number of children stood out.

I guess the reason is because they are in spring holiday.

Spring holiday? We, all deities, work without holiday.

Omoikane(masked player) ~Japan culture~kagura first program 1
Omoikane (masked player)~Japan culture~kagura first program 2
Omoikane(masked player)~ Japan culture~kagura first program 3

Omoikane (masked player)~Japan culture~kagura first program 4

 First progarm is “Omoikane“. The player white cloth dances alone, holding a bell and staff of pleased paper stream.

What is the thing the player holds?

This is “Gohei (paper streamer)”, which Shinto priests often use at ceremonies. We can often see this from. They that the deity lodges in these things temporally.

And players take the same action at four corners. Why?

It means that it is significant to appease the earth. The feature of this kagura is very ritual and hardly any dramatic elements. So, players sometimes turn back to the audience because they play not the audience but for the deity.

I’m sorry to say there is no part for me in this scene.

 Second program is “two Koyanes“. Two players are on the stage. They were white and black mask of old men. They dance bisymmetrically with paper streamer and bells, too.

Japan culture~kagura second program 1 masked players
Japan culture~kagura second program 2 masked players
Japan culture~kagura second program 3 masked players
Japan culture~kagura second program 4 masked players

How are programs named?

The names of programs are named on each deity. For example, “Koyane” is named after the called “Ameno Koyane”.

 Third program is “three deities of Sumiyoshi“. Three players appear on the stage who each wear cloth of different colors, white and yellow. They dance symmetrically with great skill amis falling of paper of pale pink prtals.

Japna culture~kagura third program 1 maske players
Japan culture~kagura third program 2 masked players

Look at that. I think that you can feel fundamental elements of Japanese culture. Cherry blossoms falling and watching kagura. It is hard to get such feeling from another event.

I see.

 Every program is short which lasts within 10~15 minutes.
 Toward the end of this program, people gather around the kagura-den.

More people have gathered. Do they love this program?

No. They are human as well as you.

 Many people appered on the stage, and began to throw many things.

Japan culture ~kagura in a shrine

What is going to being?

This is “mochinage” ceremony. “Mochi” means originally Japanese rice cake. But, recentry, “mochi” changed to various other things, like sweets. This is a congratulation present. Of course, all are free. Most of the audience gather to get this present. Anybody can get this. There is no limit numbers. You can get many sweets by yourself.

That’s good.

But what you must not forget is that these are presents of fortune for everybody. Not only for you? OK?

I see, I see.

Japan culture~kagura in a shrine
Japan culture~kagura in a shrine

 After the ceremony of mochinage, the program starts again.
 Next program is “Miko mai“. “Miko” is a shrine maiden consecrated to deity. Miko-mai is a type of dance performed by “miko”. The way to dance is different in every region. Here, four elementary school girls are performing. This is shorter than other programs which lasts within 5 minutes.

 ”Sarutahiko“. One player weares red and long-high nose mask and holds a bell and long sword in his hands.

Sarutahiko (masked player) ~Japan culture ~kagura program
Sarutahiko (masked player)~Japan culture ~kagura program

Oh, he is my colleague. We are oroud guides for our fellows deities. (Reference/Japanese mythorogy)

He looks more powerful and stronger than you.

Darm it. Your eyes are kortholes.

Japan culture~kagura in a shrine girls players
Japan culture~kagura in a shrine girls players

 ”Miko-dance” again.

Tajikarao (masked player) ~Japan culture ~kagura
Tajikarao (masked player)~Japan culture ~kagura
Tajikarao (masked player)~Japan culture~kagura
two kagura players in kagura (Japan culture)

 ”Iwatobiraki” →please refer to “Reference”→”Japanese mythology”
 One player wears black clothes red “hakama” and holds gold folding fan. “Hakama” is Japanese skirt for formal wear. He is deity named “Tajikarao 手力男”. He plays the role of removing “Iwato”. In this kagura, a blackboard represent it. He takes it off, exposing a little girl traditional wear of “miko”. She represents “Amaterasu”.

kagura's players in shrine ~Japan culture
Japan culture kgura's players

 After the first player leaves, “Miko-mai” plays again. And two players wearing black and white clothes and mask of old man bisymmetrically. At last, the first player “Tajikarao” appears again.

girls dancers in kagura Japan culture
girls dancers in kagura ~Japan culture

 At last, mochinage ceremony is held again, and there is a lunch break. It is about 20 minutes.

Second half

Hey, get up. Kagura started again.

?? Oh, I seemed to have dozed off without realizing. Spring weather makes us sleepy.

Stop being so idle and get to work !

powerful player in kagura (Japan culture)
powerful player in kagura (Japan culture)

 ”A sword dance” One player has a mask of surprising and long hair. He walks powerfully swinging a sword.

His action signifies cutting evil. We can usually see the action in kagura.

You know so well.

That’s because I am a deity !

a girl dances kagura (Japan culture)

Miko-dance” one player.

It’s beautiful !

It looks like spring of cherry blossoms come together to make one female figure.

You sometimes are so poetic despite your appearance, aren’t you?

Hey, don’t judge people by appearance.

Ryujin (masked player) in kagura(Japan culture)
Ryujin (masked player) in kagura (Japan culture)

 ”Ryujin (deity of dragon)

 Mochinage again.

deity of battle in kagura (Japan culture)
deity of battle in kagura (Japan culture)

 ”Hachiman” This is a deity of battle and war. He drive out evil spirits to shoot a bow.

two deities in kagura (Japan culture)

After”Sagomai” and “miko-mai“, 15 minutes intermission

a player dnace in kagura (Japan culture)

It is getting cool. I feel the cold wind.

Three more programs. Be patient.

Aren’t you feel cold?

Noway, I am a deity.

old deity in kagura (Japan culture)
old deity in kgura (Japan culture)
old deity in kagura (Japan culture)

 ”Hakuhatsu (deity with white hair)”

a girl dances kagura (Japan culture)

I guess that this program is to wish for longevity. He has long white hair and wears mask of old man.

deity of fishing in kagura (Japan culture)

deity of fishing in kagura (Japan culture)


I like this program.


He is fishing. And this program is often the sign of mochinage voming.

You are so greedy !

But, it os one of the most popular programs from old times. Hey, mochi is falling down again.

 Ebisu finally caught a sea bream as expected and got off.
 Finally, people were throwing sweets splendidly and all programs ended. It was 5 pm.

deity of fishing in kagura (Japan culture)
a deity of fishing in kagura (Japan culture)


many players
many players
end of kagura (Japan culture)

This kagura went on schedule. I think it is rare.

Yes, I hardly see something like this.

I am pleased to get many sweets. Let’s visit here again.

 to be continue to vol. 2

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