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Iwami Kagura – Expo 2025: Live to Travel, Travel to Live

Iwami Kagura

Iwami Kagura is a traditional performing art from the Iwami region in Shimane Prefecture, and every Saturday night, Ryugozen Shrine hosts mesmerizing performances of this preserved art. The shrine is located in Yunotsu Onsen, a hot spring resort town located near the World Heritage Site “Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine” and registered as one of Japan’s Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings. Here visitors can experience the authenticity of the Iwami Kagura spirit. At "Kobayashi Kobo," located in the same area, guests can also join a kagura mask-painting experience that provides hands-on excitement no matter one’s age. Immerse yourself in the world of Iwami Kagura!

Local Insights

Taizo Kobayashi is an Iwami Kagura mask craftsman. Born in 1980, he began studying the techniques of "Iwami Kagura masks" at age 11 and established the Kobayashi Workshop company at 28. He primarily engages in the manufacturing and sales of Kagura masks, while also offering painting experiences and teaching classes at high schools. As a performer of Iwami Kagura himself, he provides guidance to ikebana practitioners, taiko drumming groups, and dance troupes, as well as fulfills orders for Kagura mask production. He also supports various activities, such as the planning of "Umikagura" performances held on the coast.

Iwami Kagura and Expo 2025

The experience of Iwami Kagura, which has been carefully passed down and nurtured for generations, highlights the importance of preserving traditional performing arts and thus, contributes to the Expo theme, "Empowering Lives," by revitalizing people's spirits.

Q1: How does this attraction bring tourists and locals together?

A: On Saturday performance days, locals will greet the performers, and after the performances, people will interact through shared experiences, such as taking photos and trying on a traditional kimono. The entire town gladly welcomes tourists, and even when residents do not speak tourists’ native languages, they communicate through gestures. Volunteer staff members and members of the Maiko Renchu happily assist tourists, and guests can further deepen their understanding of local culture and Iwami Kagura through monitor tours and other activities.

Q2: What kind of impressions have you got from visitors?

A: On the day of the kagura night performance, the area is very lively. We often receive many excited, as well as shocked, comments. Some commented, "I wish they would do this in Tokyo," and "Where else can I see this in Japan?" We also once received feedback from German guests a few years ago in regards to the speakers’ sound. As a result, we started a special performance called "Rosoku Kagura” (candlelight kagura) in 2020. This show, which is always fully booked, is performed without modern equipment and only uses candlelight, live sound, and live voices, making it an authentic representation of the traditional dances of ancient times.

Q3: Any message for visitors planning to see Expo 2025?

A: It is a place where people of all ages, genders, and nationalities can experience the unique traditional performing arts and be moved by the wonder that such performing arts still exist in this corner of Japan. Here in Yunotsu, you have the opportunity to explore an undiscovered side of Japan that you have never met. You are always welcome. Please come and visit us!

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