Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri – Otabi Shosai

Yesterday I went to the Onmatsuri festival at the Kasuga Wakamiya Shrine in Nara. I was invited to attend a special sequence of performances called Tabi shosai, staged in front of a  shrine where the god is temporarily residing. An academic treatment of the festival can be found here. I wish I had more time to talk about the performances here, but I don’t. Yesterday it was cold and dark (after 16:30) so I could not take good pictures. However, I wanted to share here a the only few snapshots of a performance that was listed as sarugaku in the programme. It was in fact kagura-shiki, a stripped-down version of Okina usually performed without mask and with plain white costumes instead of the usual okina-kariginu embroidered cloak. This kind of performance is often staged around this time of the year by high-ranking Noh actors. Other analogous acts, part of a ritual sequence called ‘under the pine tree’ such as yumiya tachiai, were performed in the morning. All performances take place on a ‘lawn stage’, the front facing the shrine, so performance need to wear special shoes instead of the usual white tabi socks. These performances remind us of the ritual origin of Noh, though the contemporary staging of such rituals has naturally changed with time. Here are a few pictures:

Matsu no shita, ‘under the pine tree’ – Yumiya tachiai, in an old postcard, showing exactly the same ritual that is performed today
Kagura-shiki: the ji-utai chorus seen from the back. On the left, the temporary shrine where the god resides.
Special shoes worn over tabi

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