In Japan there are a number of traditional styles of theatre. Kabuki and Noh are the most famous and you may know of them.
However there is another traditional performance art which is often unknown outside of Japan but is definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance, and that art form is called “Kagura”.
The shows involve a lot of big colourful costumes and having watched Kabuki, Noh and Kagura I can say that Kagura shows are definitely more accessible and easier to understand, even with the language barrier if you don’t speak Japanese.
One of the main centres of popularity for Kagura is Hiroshima and that’s where I went to see it performed, in a theatre just by the famous Hiroshima Peace Park. The shows are all in Japanese but for the performance I was watching, there were leaflets giving information in English and explaining the stories that were going to be performed, usually three or four stories per show. I saw the stories of Shoki, Oeyama, Jinrin and Yamata-o-orochi or the Giant Eight Headed serpent. All of which featured hugely elaborate costumes and set pieces showing battles between samurai, Gods and demons being fought across the stage.
At the theatre in Hiroshima, once the show has finished the audience has the opportunity to go up on stage for a closer look at the costumes and even to try a few on! This lets you see just how much detail goes into making them with some of the costumes heavily embroidered with gold and silver thread which are surprisingly heavy when you try them on – they can weigh up to 10kg!
They are also incredibly expensive with some of the costumes costing millions of yen! As a night out it’s a great cultural experience while you’re in Hiroshima and a chance to enjoy some great cultural performances you’ll remember forever!