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Connie: Kagura

February 12, 2011

I stayed overnight at my host family’s house last weekend. The other girl who stayed in Shobara with me last time is returning to her home country next weekend, so she wanted to visit them one more time. She invited me to go along, and my host family said it was perfectly okay.

The difference between here and there is amazing! There isn’t a single bit of snow on the ground here, but when I looked outside of my host family’s living room window into their garden:

Of course, a lot of that is what fell off the roof, but even so, it’s impressive when compared to Saijo. In Minnesota snow was nothing to complain about, but for some reason when I was in Shobara I was impressed with it. It probably has something to do with me not having to shovel or walk through it.

When I arrived at my family’s house I was treated to すき焼き (sukiyaki) for the first time. It was quite delicious! If you don’t know, sukiyaki is basically a pot full of whatever you like. It’s a bit like nabe in that way, except rather than eating the whole thing, broth and all, you take out the things from the pot and dip it in raw egg.

On Saturday our host families had planned for me and the other girl to go learn some about 神楽 (kagura), which is an ancient kind of Shinto dance. So on Friday night, I went with my host father to visit the man who had let us try on samurai armor last time we were in Shobara. The conversation naturally turned to kagura. The man went into a cold back room and came out with a 笛 (fue), which is the kind of flute used in kagura’s music. Neither him nor my host father could get it to make a sound, but since I’m a flute player I asked if I could try. After playing a bit with the shape of my mouth until I could get a sound out the man who owned the fue said I could have it! I didn’t want to take something like that from him, but he said it would just sit in that cold room anyway.

I don’t think I can play it in the dorm rooms, but right after returning I heard someone practicing trumpet in the forest near the dorms. Maybe I’ll do the same thing.

When Saturday arrived my host father and my friend’s host mother took us to an old elementary school just outside of Hiroshima-ken. There were rooms filled with beautiful kagura costumes. We were allowed to try them on, and apparently we were probably some of the only girls to do so. Kagura, like kabuki, is performed primarily by men.

We only tried on one layer of the costume, but it was incredibly heavy and difficult to move in. I felt like that kid in A Christmas Story when he can’t move his arms under all his winter clothes. If I put my arms down, the sleeves would stay perfectly rigid. Despite this, the people who participate in kagura move incredibly fluidly and quickly while wearing several layers of costume. It’s incredible! There was one kagura dancer there with us, but when we asked him how they do it, all he did was shrug.

Though my friend is going back to her home country next weekend, my host father said that every summer the group the dancer we met participates in a performance. He said we could go back to see them actually perform it. It’s a long way off, but I’m looking forward to it!

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One comment

  1. […] from Shobara up to Shimane-ken, the prefecture north of Hiroshima, to see a kagura festival at the same place I’d tried on the costumes before. It took roughly two hours to get from Shobara-shi to Shimane-ken going up and down mountainous […]



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