Our local shrine, Shioya Jinja, in the western outskirts of Hiroshima, held its annual summer festival last Saturday. Summer shrine festivals here in Hiroshima usually include a performance of kagura as the main event.
Kagura is a form of sacred Shinto dance in celebration of the seasons and folklore of Japan. Some of the performances are very old, some are relatively modern and “Hiroshima style” kagura is known for its colour and drama,
“… stylized swordplay, quick changes of costume, beautifully synchronized dances, and a climactic showdown synchronized to the frantic beat of the taiko.”
(David Peterson, An Invitation to Kagura, p. 4)
I went along with my daughter, Eileen-chan, and we stayed long enough to see a couple of performances. One may have been Jinrin, a play in which Tarashi and Takamaru (the good guys) fight and defeat the Jinrin invaders (the bad guys). The play involves a lot of nice swirling sword-fighting choreography, with the bad guys disappearing behind billows of smoke from a backstage dry-ice machine.
There are really three parts to a shrine festival, all going on at the same time. They are, the kagura performance, the shrine rituals, and the festival stalls that line the streets in and around the shrine precincts.
After watching the kagura for a while, we joined the crowds pressed in between the street stalls and treated ourselves to some yaki nikku – grilled beef for me and grilled pork for Eileen.