Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kagura Dance Show at the Hiroshima Kita Hotel

The night between our Mizuho Highland ski day and our drive through Yamaguchi to visit the famous five-story pagoda, Nana and I stopped with some friends at the Hiroshima Kita Hotel. We lucked out in terms of timing: the night of our stay was a special dinner show featuring a troupe of Kagura dancers.

Kagura is a kind of dance-theater that, like the better-known but significantly more staid Noh, grew out of old Shinto religious rituals. Modern Kagura draws on a wide range of folk tales, literary works, and episodes from history, and Hiroshima is one of its most active hotbeds. It's extremely high-energy, with a raucous live music ensemble and acrobatic choreography.

Sometimes, you go to these cultural things in Japan just to say that you've done them, but in reality they're actually so boring you leave halfway through. (See: Geisha shows.)

Kagura is not one of those things. It's loud, fast, and very intense. Really: it was so gripping I can barely remember what we had for dinner!

This is where Freddie Mercury gets it.
(Somehow I missed this guy's transformation into a crazy-haired fox. Too absorbed to take photos!)

Another tragic episode from the Tale of Genji.

These guys were awesome. Check out that hair!

This picture and the ones below are from our friend George,
who is a much more skilled (and more prolific) photographer than I.

I wish I could remember whatever stupid thing I was saying right here.

Pictures with the cast after the show.

Yes, that's a giant anchor.
I should also mention that the staff and the performers were profoundly amused to have a table of gaijin in the audience. When they were raffling off little souvenir plastic folders, they straight-up just gave them to us, after making a long speech in Japanese thanking us (I think) for coming all the way from America to see them. I didn't have the heart or the language skills to tell them we'd only come up from Fukuoka (and that a lot of us weren't American).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Yamaguchi: Ruriko-ji's Five Story Pagoda

Thanks, George, for the photo!
There is no building quite as iconically Asian as the pagoda. Earlier this spring, Nana and I visited an example particularly beloved among the Japanese as we passed through Yamaguchi on our way back from skiing at Mizuho Highland. (More on that later, perhaps.)

The five-story pagoda at Ruriko-ji isn't the biggest or most spectacular in Japan, but it benefits from being 1) very old (1442), and 2) in a beautiful location. It sits in a pretty little park on a wooded hillside at the edge of the city, looking out over the broad valley in which Yamaguchi sits.

But the pagoda wasn't the only attraction here: the rest of the temple grounds were also lovely, especially with the flowers just starting to bloom.

I think this is a Japanese foot shiatsu diagram. Maybe you put the coin on the spot where you would put the needle?

I loved this stone lantern in the pond.

Plum blossoms!

(Note: We were actually on this trip with a bunch of friends from our apartment building, but I forgot to ask them for permission to include them in this entry - and I don't like posting pictures of people without permission. My apologies to the rest of the Nishijima Mansion crew!)