Samukawa Jinja Shrine held their annual Sagami Takigi Noh event on August 15th. The event drew nearly 1,500 people for an evening of traditional Japanese theater.
The event, which started in 1970, commemorates the end of World War II.
Noh Theater is an ancient Japanese art form that started in the 14th century that often deals with supernatural legends or daily life in feudal Japan. It is usually performed in an ancient dialect of Japanese and accompanied by traditional Japanese music. In ancient times, Noh was an all-day event consisting of five long, serious plays with smaller comedies, called kyougen, in between. Modern Noh however usually consists of only two regular plays with one comedy between them.
Takigi, which translates to bonfire, is a type of Noh done entirely outdoors at night with fire pits to help light the stage. This firelight captures the Noh atmosphere and transports the audience back to ancient times. It is a common style of Noh Theater and there are Takigi Noh events in places like Kamakura and Kyoto. Unlike these events, however, Samukawa’s Sagami Takigi Noh is completely free of charge, as the purpose of the event is not to make money, but rather to promote world peace.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Aya Watada
The event even opens with a Shinto prayer ceremony for those who died in the war and a prayer for eternal world peace. To attend, one simply submits a formal, written request by mail to the shrine and awaits a reply. If you can speak Japanese well enough, or if you can get help with the request, it is definitely worth seeing once.
While the evening outdoor theater event is only 47 years old, the shrine itself is much older.
Samukawa Jinja is an ancient shrine that predates written records. According to local legends, it was founded in the 5th century as a place of worship for two local deities associated with a local mountain. However, the first official written documentation of the shrine was in the 9th Century historical texts. In feudal times, Samukawa Jinja was considered to be the most important shrine in the old Sagami province, which was later combined to form modern day Kanagawa. Today the Samukawa Jinja is still an important shrine in Kanagawa prefecture and is visited by people from all over the Kanto region. The grounds are spacious, and peaceful. The buildings, while modern, capture the feel and style of old Japan.
If you missed the Noh Theater event but still want to check out Samukawa Shrine, there will be a Yabusame, or horse archery, demonstration held on the shrine grounds on September 19th. The event is held in conjunction with the shrine’s annual festival and is worth seeing. The Yabusame itself starts at 2pm, but other rituals will be held before hand so it is good to get there early.
Samukawa Jinja Shrine is located in Samukawa, about ten minutes’ walk from Miyayama station on the Sagami line.
This article is from Chigasaki Breeze #65
Written by Dave Hanschen