- Sacred music and dance; music of the kami. The term kagura is derived from kamu-kura 'seat of the gods' i.e. shinza, the place or object into which the kami descends, and it suggests the invocation of gods. The mythical origin of kagura is the hilarious dance performed by the heavenly kami Ame-no-uzume which caused such merriment among the assembled kami that it successfully enticed Amaterasu out of the cave into which she had withdrawn (see Iwato-biraki). Kagura fall broadly into two types. Classical kagura (mi-kagura) connected with the court has developed as a reverent classical dance form little resembling the boisterous performance by Ameno-uzume. It is performed by singers to an accompaniment of wooden clappers (shakubyoshi), a special oboe (hichiriki), a flute (kagura-bue) and a six-stringed zither, the wagon. It is performed at the imperial court annually on the night of 15th December. The second form called sato-kagura ('village kagura') refers to regional forms of shrine or festival-based dance-drama which have evolved into semi-professional performances by masked players of scenes from Shinto mythology and other historical or legendary themes. The accompaniment is by a hayashi band consisting of flutes and drums. At shrines, kagura may be performed by miko (shrine maidens) dressed in red hakama and white blouse. Its purpose is to entertain, pacify and invoke the benevolence of the enshrined kami. There are regional types of kagura associated with the Atsuta taisha, Izumo taisha, Kasuga taisha and other shrines including Ise jingu where kagura was traditionally performed, as elsewhere, in return for donations. For further examples see Kazami-no-Kagura, Toyama-no-shimotsuki matsuri, Sanzoro matsuri, Myoga kagura, Honkawa kagura, Takuno-no-kodomo kagura and Ino kagura. In trance kagura such as the kojin kagura, found in Okayama, a medium dances while waving a length of white cotton in snake-like gestures, before falling into a trance and issuing a message from the god kojin. A form of kagura (Mi-kagura-uta) also has a central place in Tenrikyo ritual. It is performed in a pit at the centre of the central shrine in Tenri, Nara prefecture.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.