Iwami Kagura at Gion Matsuri


When most people think of Gion Matsuri, they think of Yoiyama (July 14-16) and Yama Boko Junko (July 17), but there are many other fantastic events connected to Kyoto's month-long festival, including Mikoshi Arai (July 10); Hanagasa Junko (July 24); and my personal favorite, Iwami Kagura (July 16). Although Iwami Kagura is performed at Yasaka Shrine every year, it's roots are in Shimane Prefecture, not Kyoto.

According to a pamphlet I received at the performance from the Hamada Tourist Association, "Iwami Kagura is a series of dances that are performed as a form of prayer to gods, and {they} are accompanied by flutes, drums, and hand clapping. Originally only Shinto priests performed Iwami Kagura, but in the Meiji Period (1868-1912) ordinary townspeople began to perform on such occasions as annual festivals, various public events, and celebrations."

I have always been fascinated by mythology and tales of warriors, ghosts, and demons, so Iwami Kagura is right up my alley. The photograph I have posted here is of Shoki, a demon slayer who plays a prominent role in both Chinese and Japanese folklore. The name of this dance is also "Shoki," and it tells the story of how an emperor in China was being haunted by a demon, and Shoki arrived to vanquish it.

You can get more information on Iwami Kagura from the Hamada Tourist Association website.