Japan’s Living Mythic Tradition Comes Alive at Iwami Kagura Naniwa in Osaka

The snake Orochi, at Iwami Kagura Naniwa, Osaka.

Fabulous handmade masks stun pitch you out of ordinary reality into the mythic dimension. It’s the power of live theatre! The snake Orochi, at Iwami Kagura Naniwa, Osaka.

Ever since coming to Japan I have wanted to see Kagura, which means “entertaining the gods.” It relates the myths of Japan, utilizing sacred Japanese dance and music dedicated to Shinto gods.

This year Western Shimane Prefecture’s Iwami Kagura Naniwa opened a Kagura theatre in Osaka. My daughter was in town, so we went as a family and participated in Japan’s living mythological tradition.

The blazing red eyes of Yamata-no-Orochi, an 8-headed snake that the god of storms, Susanoo, defeats, stay with me. So does the sound of pounding taiko drums and flute.

The dance of the jolly face and colorful-attired Ebisu, the god of wealth, was infectious, as he fished for the beautiful Sea Bream. When he tossed lucky candy out to the audience, I felt blessed by witnessing his dance and liveliness, and as if I were a child again. Isn’t that where the kingdom of heaven is found?

Ebisu, the Shinto god of Wealth, at the Iwami Kagura Naniwa theatre in Osaka.

Ebisu, the Shinto god of Wealth, at the Iwami Kagura Naniwa theatre in Osaka.

I felt as if I were stepping into a live cartoon show, so stunning were the masks and costumes, made by hand with sacred washi paper, the rhythm of the percussion putting me in a trance-like state of awe and pitching me out of ordinary reality into the mythic dimension.

If you love traditional Japanese arts and theatre, don’t miss this amazing group of performers. A digital kamishibai show with English subtitles explains each story before the show.

Photographs are not allowed during the performance, which is one hour, but you can take photographs with the snake or other characters after the show.

The Iwami Kagura Naniwa  is not far from Namba station. For performance dates and ticket prices, click here.

Kagura Osaka

We had fun posing with one of the snakes, Orochi, after the show.

Orochi, at the Iwami Kagura Naniwa, Osaka.

Get a photograph of you with the Orochi snake!

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About the use of washi paper from the program at the Iwami Kagura Naniwa, Osaka.

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About the Kagura stage, characters and musical instruments used, from the program at the Iwami Kagura Naniwa, Osaka.

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The Iwami Kagura Naniwakan is not far from Namba Station in Osaka.

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