300year Traditional Ooshika-Kabuki

October 18th, 2010 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Seasonal Topics
a village young man performed princess Toki begs her(his)husband to stay home longer
a village young man performed princess Toki begs her(his)husband to stay home longer

 We three villagers of Kawakami had been eager to see the seasonal kabuki play famous in Ooshika village in Southern Nagano pref.,

which is performed by ordinary villagers as a dedication to the local shrine twice a year .

So, we set for the southern village 150km away from our eastern Kawakami village.


After getting off the highway toll road at Matsukawa Inter Change,we drove towards the foot of the Southern Alps Mountain Range for nearly an hour.

Proceeding on a  winding narrow road along a lake and through some tunnels, we entered Ooshika Village.

Occasional waterfalls into the lake and the lake itself looked so refreshing that we were tempted to stop a while and feel a breeze, but no, we wanted to arrive early to secure a good seats in front of the Kabuki stage!,and went on straight to the shrine of the venue.


People have started gathering. We could spread our blanket on a story upper place from the stage.

Right in the far front wall we could see sheets of caligraphy written paper exhibiting who donated how much.

This place happened to be just beside the main hall of the shrine, and there performed a traditional “Dragon Dance” prior to the Kabuki play.  

Kabuki conservation members sell their hand made pamphlets

Kabuki conservation members sell their hand made pamphlets


Securely spread our own blankets, I set out to buy something to eat and to read.

There I found the members of the Kabuki Conservation group selling their hand made pamphlets.  

    I bought a copy to get the information on the story and the actors,and took the opportunity to interview Mr. Taiji Kawashima,who was in charge there.

Mr. Kawashima is a village officer  and member of the conservation committee.     According to him, the Kabuki play is performed by the conservation    committee,which is headed by the village mayor, with many of the village people participating.    Their age ranges from 80s to elementary school children.

The committee conducts the play mainly twice a year for the dedication for the local shrines,but it also performs at a  local community center one another time  every year.    

The history of the play is so long it dates back to the Edo period in Samurai times. The village people have maintained their original style of storytelling for these more than 250 years!

Now at village elementary school, the culture is taught by the committee members. At village middle school, the Kabuki club performs a play at annual culture school festival.

Well,says Mr. Kawashima, it is sometimes tough to keep maintaining the tradition in this small populated village of 1200 .

However, he seems extremely proud of  the committee   led by the eldest Tayu,or a story teller,and his appointed successor .

the opening address by the village mayor

the opening address by the village mayor


 actors all get together at the finale
actors all get together at the finale

As for the play, well really. To shed tears over the drama was not among the things I had planned to enjoy for the holiday!

But when a wife of a general- performed by a village man ,who actually grows a rare blue poppies- , is grieving over her dead son’s body,and when her husband -performed by a village farmer- ,who had have to kill his own son expresses his own sorrow by quitting being samurai and becoming a monk, I could somehow feel the actors’ own lives in this community  through their lives.
Although our hips ached a bit after sitting on a blanket spread ground for some hours, and the venue was very humble with old shrine buildings , and the weather a bit cool, I enjoyed the most aboriginal and most touching Kabuki very different from the ones I sometimes see at Kabuki-za theatre or the National Theatre for Kabuki in Tokyo.
Ooshika village HP:http://www.ooshika.com/

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