All About Japan

Kagura: A Dance Fit for the Gods

Shinto Theater Shimane

The two Chinese characters that form the word kagura—the character for “god” and the one for “enjoyment”—hint at its origins. Kagura is first described in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), historical records of Japanese mythology compiled in the eighth century. These records tell of a time when the sun goddess Amaterasu hid in a cave, plunging the world into darkness. Other deities performed entertaining dances outside the cave to coax her out, and the strategy succeeded—Amaterasu found them so alluring that she gave up her sanctuary, and light returned to the world. This provided the inspiration for kagura.

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