“ Kagura×Dance” Creation Report

Yoshihiro Fujita (Dancer/Choreographer)

Visiting Dedication Kagura Performance

at a Shinto Shrine

Sasagawa Hachimangu

Sharing the Joy through Taiko

Imafuku-za X Shimane Prefecture School of Hamada for Hearing Impaired Children Japanese Drumming Outreach

Shimane Prefecture School of Hamada for Hearing Impaired Children


“Iwami Kagura×Dance” Creation Report

Yoshihiro Fujita (Dancer/Choreographer) Visiting

Dedication Kagura Performance at a Shinto Shrine

Yoshihiro Fujita, a dancer and choreographer, worked collaboratively with Iwami Kagura both in 2017 and 2019. The third performance of GF Kagura (Grand Toit×Fujita×kagura) will be held as the opening event of Shimane Traditional Performing Arts Festival. In preparation he observed genuine dedicatory kagura performed in the Iwami region. He reports on his real-life experience of dedicatory kagura performed by the Mitani Kagura Group at Sasagawa Hachimangu Shrine in Masuda City, and speaks his thoughts on Iwami Kagura.



■Q1. How was your experience of dedicatory Iwami Kagura at a shrine?


I’d only seen kagura at theaters, but this was the first time I had a great opportunity to experience kagura dedicated to deities at a shrine. We sat cross-legged on little tatami mats to watch at our ease, unlike the manner of being seated in an auditorium. I observed that the people in charge were offering tea, sake, and snacks to the people who were there to watch, and the audience was so relaxed. It was memorable. We were excited by the audience’s smiles, which shone with glowing anticipation for this day.


And as soon as the performance began the great power in the air was tangible. We could really feel the breathing, every single movement of dancers’ hands and feet, and everything else. Not only was the audience having fun but also the dancers seemed to enjoy themselves dancing.


I felt that the people who were there that day were those who couldn’t help but love Iwami Kagura.


■Q2. What were the most intriguing aspects of the plays and

     what was the most impressive scene for you?


All the plays were intriguing and truly enjoyable. However, if I am to comment on some of them, first I will mention “Kurozuka” (The Black Mound). I was very happy at the moment when the play title, “Kurozuka” was displayed, especially because it was the one in which I collaborated with the Shinwa-kai Junior Group. The dialogue between Hoin (a superior monk) and two Goriki (mountain guiding porters) was funny as always and even the mistakes brought everyone to laughter! When the monster fox went very close to the warriors, Miuranosuke and Kazusanosuke, the two had the look of being strangely surprised on their faces, so I half-expect it was possibly an improvisation by the monster fox.


I was impressed by the play “Suzukayama” (Mount Suzuka), too. There were four supporting ogres, and each one’s individual characteristic was reflected in their dance. In particular, the dance performed by the ogre underling with the smallest mask was great – vigorous and brisk! But I wonder if it is a rare play, because it wasn’t covered in the Iwami Kagura guide book we were given.


Lastly, of course, I must make special mention of “Orochi” (The Giant Serpent)! Honestly speaking, the stage wasn’t a large space, but when four Orochi puppets came out I unconsciously screamed. It was a great spectacle to see Orochi completely fill out the space. Their movements were just like real serpents and didn’t seem like they were manipulated by men. The variations of how they moved and intertwined with each other were also stunning. I’ve seen the play on video several times, but the live technique by which they intertwined with each other had evolved since then. I wonder if this technique is original to the kagura group.


■Q3. What elements were inspiring to you, as a dancer, choreographer, and director?


The improvisations which appeared here and there throughout the performance were intriguing. It’s not only about the dialogue, but also the dance and movements. In addition, the musicians were adjusting their rhythm to the dance and the timing of the dance’s end without getting flustered. In a sense, it might be like improvisation in jazz music.


And it was very curious that wearing masks somehow makes various individual and inner elements even more perceptible: dancer’s facial expressions behind the masks, their individual characteristics, and their minds.


Above all, I was inspired by the way the performers were trying to amuse the audience. I personally believe that some form of entertainment should exist as long as there is an audience. Again, I was convinced that being conscious of the entertainment element is absolutely necessary, whether it’s traditional performing arts or contemporary shows.


■Q4.  What are the aspects that you feel appeal to Iwami Kagura

      and the interests toward the tradition?


・The sense of a live performance, more than all!

The dancers and the sound of music are extremely powerful! Once we see it live, and listen to it live, we get addicted and it make us want to relive that experience. If one thinks it is a banal traditional performing art, it’s actually totally different. If there is anyone who has never seen it before, they really should experience it at least once.


・Sense of narrative

It is said Iwami Kagura has more than 30 plays of repertoire. Most of them are stories based on myths, legends, and history. The stories were passed down through many generations: romantic stories, amusing stories, and large-scale stories. All of them are fascinating.



Iwami Kagura seems to be continually evolving while simultaneously preserving the tradition. The prime example is Orochi. The Orochi body is inspired by traditional paper lanterns. Consider the eyes gleaming out, the mouth blowing out a fire and smoke, and the performance where originally one Orochi becomes eight after the Osaka World Expo (1970). And then the combinations of movements and intertwining formations have become more and more complex. I think through these aspects, each kagura group has been able to discover their own originality.


I had an opportunity to visit the workshop of Katsuro Kakita, a mask making artisan, and talk with him. He said, “When one does something for the first time, people laugh or get upset, but after having continued for ten years, it becomes the next new tradition.” I thought that was absolutely true, and although we were in different fields, the idea is linked with the contemporary dance I work on.



The next event will be the third GF Kagura (Grand Toit×Fujita×Iwami Kagura) collaboration.

The collaborative creation between contemporary dance and traditional performing arts

is certainly a challenge. What motivates you to take on such a challenge?


First of all, I don’t think this collaboration would exist without kagura stories and its perspective of the world. Iwami Kagura is complete on its own. I’ve been mindful of how we, contemporary dancers, can collaborate with that world, and moreover how we can integrate with it without tarnishing the essence of Iwami Kagura. 

But it’s a precious collaboration and it would be a shame if we only took part in a background role. Therefore, I thought about how much the expression of Iwami Kagura could evolve and how effectively we could interact with the dancers blending into it.


To begin with, I’m thinking of a staging to expand the basic stories of Iwami Kagura.

For instance, the play “Iwato” (The Heavenly Rock Cave), as written in the Chronicles of Japan, depicts Amaterasu (the female deity of the sun) who hides herself in the Heavenly Rock Cave because of the violent act of her brother, Susano’o (the deity of sea and storms), but this scene is omitted in the kagura version. Then I thought if that was the case, we could give Susano’o a role and make it easier for the audience to enter into the story.


Furthermore, I had the idea not only of acting as a character in the story but also of incorporating a background and props as tools for stage direction. I feel that I am good at expressing physical “portrayal”. I presumed that manipulating objects and tools as Kuroko (stage assistants dressed in black as in Kabuki), which Iwami Kagura doesn’t have, would make it much more intriguing. For instance, there’s a scene in “Kurozuka” where Kazusanosuke shoots arrows at the monster fox. In a recreation of this scene with dancers, they hold the arrows and dance with them. It enables us to express the speed, the sharpness and the power of the arrows. 


In any case, I’ve always worked hoping that our involvement with the fantastic Iwami Kagura would make it more intriguing, and that the expression would become more varied and deeper. For me GF Kagura has become a highly motivating project.


■Q6.Could you share a few words on the collaboration with the Shinwa-kai Junior Group?


I have made the two pieces, “Iwato” and “Kurozuka”, with the Shinwa-kai Junior Group. I’m already excited thinking about what to work on next and what stage direction I would give. Moreover, Iwami Kagura and contemporary dance will join together more than ever. We will make a truly exceptional piece in which only we, the Junior Group and contemporary dancers, can do it justice!




【Yoshihiro Fujita】

振付家・演出家・ダンサー・デザイナー。パフォーマンスユニットCAT-A-TAC (キャットアタック)主宰。ダンスカンパニー コンドルズ メンバー。福井県出身。第72回文化庁芸術祭舞踊部門新人賞受賞。福井しあわせ元気国体開会式典演技振付総合監修。群馬大学非常勤講師。

小栗旬や加藤シゲアキ主演舞台への振付やステージング、桐山照史主演舞台やNODA・MAP 、山田洋次監督演出ミュージカルへの出演、NHK教育番組の振付・出演他、MV、CM、舞台作品、振付出演多数。石見神楽などの伝統芸能とのコラボや児童演劇・幼児教育教材の監修など三世代間で楽しめるダンス劇作品や教育に力を入れる。愛猫家。プロレス・仏像愛好家。メガネ・アンティーク収集家。




Imafuku-za X Shimane Prefecture School of Hamada

for Hearing Impaired Children Japanese Drumming Outreach

Sharing the Joy through Taiko

Grand Toit (Culture Foundation of Shimane Prefecture) held a Japanese drumming outreach program at Shimane Prefecture School of Hamada for Hearing Impaired Children as a local exchange program of the Shimane Traditional Arts Festival three times in the last year. It was led by Yu Imafuku, a Japanese drummer based in Hikimi Town (Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture), and Eri Domoto, a member of his taiko group Imafuku-za.


Four students learned the significance of expressing themselves and the enjoyment of music through learning to play taiko, the Japanese drum which is a national traditional music instrument.

Yu Imafuku speaks on what he felt through the activity and what he wishes to carry on to the future.


■The drumming outreach program was given three times this series. What did you feel and what  was the approach to the children’s growth like?

At the beginning, the children were nervous and sometimes their facial expressions revealed their shyness and diffidence. Children tend to be less assertive when they lack self-confidence. But because we were able to provide the drumming experience and interaction several times in a series, the children started to smile little by little. It was a relief.

Their expressions were telling me as though “It’s fun!” and “I want to drum more!”. I was happy to feel this sensation grow stronger each time.

There are children who have to overcome their timid dispositions. And when they smile and rejoice, it shows such joy that I feel even happier.

As for the approach, since each of them have different personalities, I didn’t think about each child’s characteristics so much. Instead, I taught them and hoped that each one would improve their drumming by loving and believing in each one of them.
It’s important that they feel the joy of overcoming something they were incapable of doing before through drumming. The children have higher motivation when we rejoice together, or when someone was able to drum using good form or good rhythm.

First and foremost, the children must be willing to drum. In order to help motivate them, I encouraged them by giving high fives and speaking to them with vocal energy, so that they would feel delighted and intrigued, and consequently this led to their increased motivation.

When that was accomplished, we all felt happy. I think they feel willing to take on another challenge the more their motivation increases and the happier they feel.

■Does this mean it is about sharing not only the technical side but also the enjoyment of Japanese  drumming together?

Yes, it does. When I watch the drummers carefully as we continue to drum, I can sense their feelings from their drumstick swings and facial expressions.

I think it is important to happily beat the taiko and have fun first.


■It seems the children understood many things though their experience of “beating taiko”.

I think that is the power of Japanese drumming.

There are many different performing arts and forms of expression, and each has its own appeal and way to express something. As for Japanese drumming, when we express our feelings with the beating of a taiko, the corresponding sound and vibration directly come back to us, and I feel that is its advantage and appeal.

Also, while beating a taiko, we can also make a voice or facial expression, sing, and dance. It is also appealing that anyone can exert all their strength and all their soul.

Through drumming, we can help the children hone their abilities and grow, and it will provide them with confidence in overcoming something that seemed insurmountable before. And they may even awaken hidden talents which they were unconscious of before drumming.

I feel it is also our role to guide them to bring it out.


■Do the children inspire you?

Our teaching methods and ability are questioned and challenged.

It took time to convey my points so I slightly exaggerated what I said and gestured frequently.

Then I learned there are other ways to teach and to express myself, which made me realize that feelings cannot be understood without conveying every sort of expression. It also gave me an opportunity to express myself.

As I continued to teach holding that feeling within me, I perceived the children’s earnest concentration and their will to play through their shining eyes. When I saw these eyes, they made me even more earnest and I resolved to teach to the best of my abilities.


■What would you like to convey through the drumming experience?

I want them to love taiko and to improve their drumming. And at the same time, it is essential to “nurture humanity”, and I think this is common in every sport and area.

Through drumming I hope they will live strong with a smile so cheerful that they can let go of being timid.

A smile is the outcome of overcoming a negative mind, and strength comes from a mind that always endeavors. I hope they will grow into individuals who never feel defeated and keep exerting their best effort.


■We will continue to conduct the drumming experience program

 for the children of the school in Hamada during 2020.

I don’t expect the program to bring an instant improvement or some sort of an achievement, but I’d like to continue communicating with the children and reaching out to them even after the next time.

I think communication by itself doesn’t help the children improve, but by reaching out through drumming we can motivate them and that enables them to aim higher.

Therefore, I hope they won’t aim only to improve, but also to challenge themselves to try something they are not good at or something they can’t usually do, such as singing and dancing while drumming. Through this I hope they can discover their untapped potentials within themselves.

And not only do we hope the children will do their best, but also, we’d like to make a better effort to communicate with them by learning sign language.


■What do you value with regard to taiko workshops and outreach programs?

I respect what parents and adults have taught their children since old times.

There are principles for the way we live that we have inherited from our ancestors, such as greetings, placing shoes together, not taking things that belong to others, not lying, and living each moment to the utmost. I’d like to pass them down through drumming.

I don’t want to condescend to others, but when I can’t make up my mind in various matters, I want to make a decision based on what is better or what is right as a human being. It’s not about my own profit, but about “the right way of living as a human being”, and I always keep this in my mind, too.

I don’t think it’s right to be overly concerned with the children, to flatter them, or to avoid saying something that would make them run away. I feel it’s necessary to seek out a good opportunity and teach good things properly and with the best timing once we can communicate sufficiently and understand each other.

I hope adults are able to teach and pass down good things to children, who will be a part of our future society, so that they can tell the difference between what is right and wrong and behave accordingly.


■Finally, we’d appreciate if you could give a message to the children.

I’d like to give a “compelling” performance together with them uniting our strength.

I think it will help them gain self-confidence and start anew. 

We are aiming for a performance, but beforehand it is important to make yourselves delightful and make someone feel delighted in order to begin feeling motivated.

First, it’s a little thing, but try to feel the joy of overcoming something that once seemed impossible. Try to accumulate the experience of being able to play the rhythm that you were incapable of playing before. When you do this I believe that we will accomplish a stirring performance. In this way I’d like you to feel what it is like to be moved.

Perseverance, struggle, and concentration are perceived by the audience.

Even if we fail, as long as they can see your perseverance, your struggle, and the sparkle of your animated lives, people will be touched by your performance. I want you to perform in that way, and I want to work together joining our might.

All of you have hardships and things to overcome before you are able to drum better, but because of that it is great to be able to drum hard and to perform together with others.

I hope you will experience as much as you can through drumming, discover yourselves, and break your limits.


Yu Imafuku

A Japanese taiko player, based in Hikimi town, Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture. He joined the taiko group, Ondeko-za, led by Tagayasu Den at the age of 24 and performed in Japan and also overseas. Four years later he left the group and spent his life as a salaryman for seven years. After that he acquired an entire set of taiko including a large one 118 centimeters in diameter and began his solo activity. He has an established reputation for his playing style of the large taiko and has created numerous pieces based on Iwami Kagura, which is passed down in his home town, and arranged for stage performances. He performed in Aoyama Taiko Kenbunroku, an annual taiko event held in Tokyo from 2004 to 2008. In recent years, he has also performed overseas, with performances in France, Austria, Canada, and Morocco. In addition, he devotes himself to training younger drummers, and works assiduously to educate children through drumming and performing at schools.

Eri Domoto

Born in Okayama Prefecture. She began playing taiko after seeing Yu Imafuku’s performance in Jingi at the taiko festival, Ikkoku-ikkyo-sai held in Ishikawa Prefecture in 1995. Since 1998, she gained experience playing taiko both in Japan and overseas as a member of a taiko team for five years. At the same time, she was involved in the making of taiko at a renowned taiko and instruments company, Asano Taiko, in Ishikawa Prefecture. After 2000, she learned drumming under Yu Imafuku, devoting herself to acquiring the artistic skills and travelling between Ishikawa Prefecture and Shimane Prefecture. In 2003, she moved and began a life in Shimane and joined the local kagura group, Michikawa Kagura Shachu. She also teaches drumming mostly to children between the ages of 5 to 16 in Masuda City and Hamada City.