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Tuesday, 12th May 2015
In Japan Travel News,

Shinagawa Jinja festival kicks off in June, featuring Kagura dance performances

Monthly Kagura dance performances kick off next month, as the Shinagawa Jinja festival starts, on the third Sunday of June. Nightly Kagura performances start on the fourth Sunday of June and run every month through to November. 

The dance is part of the Musashi Mitake-jinja Shrine’s traditional Daidai Kagura music and dance tradition, that has been passed down for over two and a half centuries since 1749 (known as the Edo Period).

Two varieties of dance take place; the Daidai Kagura, sumen-kagura, in which the dancers are maskless, and the masked Daidai Kagura, men-kagura. Both dances were rites, performed before the Shinto gods. 

“The Daidai Kagura constitutes an offering and is a most prestigious method of worship,” according to an explanation on the Go Tokyo website.
Both the kagura varieties were originally the domain of 32 priest families and have been handed down through the generations of these families which are linked with the Musashi Mitake-jinja Shrine.

The dances evolved through a long course, gradually acquiring their unique form of today. During the performance, dancers wear old masks from the Edo Era. Legend has it that the rite started around 1570-73. According to the traditional story, when Tokugawa, Ieyasu sent his troops to the battle at Sekigahara in 1600, he dedicated Dai-Dai Kagura and donated the divine mask called “the mask that licks the world (the mask has a long tongue)” to the cause. An old fox mask owned by Shinagawa Jinja suggests that the dance has its origins in the Middle Age.

The Dai-Dai Kagura dance takes place at 3-7-15, Kitashinagawa, and is performed by up to four dancers and three musicians. There are twelve parts, including “Dance worshipping four directions (east, west, south and north)” “Dance of Old Man,” and “Dance to calm flower storm.”  In 1957 the performance was recognised as a Tokyo Designated Intangible Folk Cultural Property.