On the night before Japan’s National Culture Day, a small local shrine in the community immediately down river from Kawamoto hosted an all-night kagura performance. The kagura began at 10:00pm and lasted until 6:30am. Made available was oden (a type of stew), yaki-imo (roasted sweet potatoes), and osake (alcohol) to maintain audience alertness and vigor throughout the night. I was given a bottle of nihonshu (sweet sake) to enjoy as a gift from a parent of one of my students. Yum.
I stayed awake until about 4:00am – at which point the food and alcohol in my system demanded I fall asleep. I was awoken by a fellow teacher at 6:00am – just in time to catch the final performance – a battle between the main character and four dragons.
The first time I’ve seen the kitsune (fox) in a kagura performance:
The performers were a local group – including Junior and Senior High School students. I’m not sure if it was their youth or their familiarity with the crowd, but they were exceptionally liberal in their interactions with audience members. Although most children loved the attention, there were a few that had to hide behind their parents or go home after a scare from a masked character.
Around 2:00am, after my bottle of nihonshu had lost some weight, I decided to venture into the dressing room of the kagura performers for some “undercover journalist” action. I had some sleepy conversations with tired performers and was granted permission to take some pictures of masks and costumes. Fascinating.
The infamous oni (devil):
The long-awaited battle with the dragons:
Culminating in their beheading:
It was a wonderful time, although I’m not convinced it was worth forgoing a night of sleep…