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Kuromori Kagura Performances in Russia
October 2-3, 2011

 

The Japan Foundation has organized the first performances in Russia of the Kuromori Kagura, a traditional Japanese form of sacred dance and music that has been passed down in Miyako City in Iwate Prefecture as a distinctive local performing art.
Many folk performing arts such as kagura and sword dancing have been passed down as traditions in Iwate Prefecture. The Kuromori Kagura, however, which is centered on Kuromori Shrine in Miyako City, is unique and precious among those varieties of kagura that are still extant. That is because this kagura is still practiced today in the form of a procession that makes its way through a wide area of the Rikuchu Coastal region of Iwate Prefecture over a period of several months. As such, it was designated an important intangible folk-cultural property by the national government in 2006. One of its distinctive characteristics is the way it has fused a spirit of reverence for Kuromori Shrine, which is a sacred mountain site linked to the lineage of Japanese mountain worship, with the regional culture, which is founded upon the fishing carried on along the Iwate coast since ancient times, their combination producing the unique, heroic dance and musical accompaniment of the Kuromori Kagura. This can therefore be considered the preeminent kagura of the region. The places visited by the Kuromori Kagura procession include some localities that were extremely hard-hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of this year. The Kuromori Kagura, however, miraculously escaped serious harm, and sacred offerings of kagura performances have already commenced again at festivals in the Tohoku Region.
The present performances will include representative pieces from the varied repertoire of Kuromori Kagura as well as video images explaining the kagura procession practice. This folk performing art that is so inextricably linked with ways of life on the Tohoku coast and deeply rooted local religious beliefs offers ways to introduce the importance of culture that is rooted in the lives of local residents and the power of community solidarity, which is so crucial to recovery from the earthquake.
Russia has also been home to farming and fishing once practiced across the vastness of its land, and Russian culture encompasses cultures that were based on such farming and fishing. There are elements in these native cultures that are shared with Japan's folk performing arts, which will no doubt evoke profound feelings in Russian audiences.

 

Schedule: October 2-3, 2011

 

Zelenograd (Moscow) Performance

Date and Time: Begins at 17:00 on Sunday, October 2, 2011
Venue: Palace of Culture
Performers: Kuromori Kagura (Important Intangible Folk-Cultural Property)
Organizing sponsors: Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Russia
Contributing sponsors: Metropol Link

 

Moscow Performance

Date and Time: Begins at 19:00 on Monday, October 3, 2011
Venue: Stanislavsky Theater
Performers: Kuromori Kagura (Important Intangible Folk-Cultural Property)
Organizing sponsors: Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Russia
Contributing sponsors: Metropol Link

 

 

【About the Kuromori Kagura】


The Kuromori Kagura is centered on Kuromori Shrine located on Mt. Kuromori in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture, and it is classified as a yamabushi kagura. The yamabushi are mountain ascetics, and this category consists of kagura they performed as a means of spreading their faith during the early modern era in Japan. It is precious as a folk performing art that is still practiced in the present day by processions that visit from village to village in an expansive area of the Rikuchu Coast of Iwate Prefecture ranging from a part of the locale known today as Kuji City in the north to a part of Kamaishi City in the south, proceeding from south to north and then north to south in alternating years.

This is a region where numerous kagura have been passed down since the early modern era, and the procession makes short visits to the shrines and hamlets those kagura belong to. The Kuromori Kagura has assembled the most talented dancers and musicians from among these local kagura performers, who together engage in the long procession that takes a period of some months. One of the distinctive characteristics of this kagura is the way it has fused a spirit of reverence for Kuromori Shrine, a sacred mountain site linked to the lineage of Japanese mountain worship, with fishing village culture founded upon the fishing carried on along the Iwate coast since ancient times, their combination producing the unique, heroic dance and musical accompaniment of the Kuromori Kagura. This can therefore be considered the preeminent kagura of the region. There is no instance of kagura anywhere else in Japan that conducts a procession over such a wide range and such a long period of time. In recognition of this and the continuation into the present day of precious folkways that are enmeshed in the ways of life along the coastal region, the Kuromori Kagura was designated an important intangible folk-cultural property by the national government in 2006.

The Kuromori Kagura procession (jungyo) begins with the ritual of commencing the dance (mai tachi) on January 3, then makes the rounds of locations on the Rikuchu Coast known as kagura lodgings (kagura yado) until March. The kagura lodgings are most commonly provided by important local people, and it is not just the families and relatives of those households but also other local residents that gather there to enjoy the kagura. Kagura embodies a world-view that is inextricably linked to the locality, and kagura performances invariably include a dance manifesting the presence before the audience of a divinity who purifies the world and promises blessings. In the Kuromori Kagura, this deity is in the lion masks referred to as "manifestations of the deity" (Gongen-sama), and a dance of the manifested deity (Gongen mai) is always included in the ritual of commencing the dance and in the dancing entry into the lodging (maikomi). The Kuromori Kagura also includes such representative pieces as the dance of the mountain deity (yama no kamimai), the dance of Ebisu, a deity who promises bountiful catches of fish (Ebisu mai), and other such pieces that are closely tied to ways of life in the local communities, in addition to the kagura associated with the Imperial court (mikagura) that represent myths passed down in every part of the country. There are also dramatic pieces with a strong story element, which are referred to as shikumi, warrior dances (bushi mai) based on the war between the Minamoto and Taira clans and other historical legends, and other audience-pleasing performance pieces that enthrall everyone from adults to children.

What sustains the Kuromori Kagura, therefore, is the kagura performers, who have historically taken on the responsibility for carrying on this precious performing art, and the people of local communities who have provided the kagura lodgings and received the kagura performers. The Kuromori Kagura can be considered the combined form taken by the refined essence of these people's hearts and minds together with the traditional culture that is a living presence along the Rikuchu Coast.

 

 

[Inquiries]
(Ms.) Yoko Kitagawa
Performing Arts Section, Arts and Cultural Department
The Japan Foundation
Tel. 03-5369-6063 Fax. 03-5369-6038 E-mail

 

 

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