Sunday, August 10, 2014

Transcending Time: The Sacred Music of Mikagura

Last month, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine of Kamakura, Japan, in cooperation with the Portland Japanese Garden, performed Mikagura for the first time in North America.


From the pamphlet: Mikagura is a traditional form of Japanese ceremonial music and dance which originated in rituals first conducted more than 1,000 years ago by Shinto shrine priests for the Imperial Court of Japan. This performance involves rare traditional music instruments and an elegant dance that has not changed much from the time of ancient Shinto rituals.

This historic performance took place in Portland at the First Congregational United Church of Christ.  The Venetian Gothic architecture, featuring woodwork, stonework, and stained glass dating back to 1851, provided a unique counterpoint to the ancient Shinto performance.


The evening began with a lecture presented by Chief Priest Shigeho Yoshida, describing Mikagura and its meaning within Shinto.


The performance began with the Oharae-Kotoba (words of purification).

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

This was followed by an introductory dance by Nincho who leads the performers and is dressed as a 9th century military noble officer.

Next, we were treated to several Kagura musical pieces including Netori, Ajime-saho, and Yudate.

Following this were beautifully choreographed Miko-mai (dances performed by Shrine Maidens) utilizing flowers, sakaki (evergreen branch), cymbals, and bells.

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

For the finale, Netori performed a final dance called Sonokoma.

[Photo by Heather Jackson]

Thank you to everyone who made this special event possible!  A special thanks goes to Heather Jackson for her skillful photography and for keeping me awake during the long drive back to Seattle.

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