Japan, Travel

Izumo Noh Performance

Izumo-Taisha is one of the most significant Shinto shrines in Japan. It remains so highly respected not only because of its ancient spiritual connections to the creation of Japan itself, but also because of its devotion to the god Ōkuninushi, the Shinto deity of marriage (more about Izumo Grand Shrine in a separate post). We ourselves have treasured memories of this shrine, having welcomed-in 2010 with thousands of others, all gathered in the snow at midnight to pray for a happy new year to come.

As we approached the shrine this time, a traditional Noh (能) performance was being presented on a temporary stage in a clearing in the trees. Subtle and poetic, Noh plays were originally performed by Shinto priests to comfort the gods, which contrasts the more energetic, entertaining Kabuki (歌舞伎). It was hard for me to understand the detail of the stories being expressed of course but regardless, the rhythmic music and precise, elegant movements of the masked dancers, on the natural forest backdrop, was hypnotic; I couldn’t look away.

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