IWAMI KAGURA -- 17-meter long serpents made of a specialty paper and bamboo appear onstage. Photo by Yoko Essel.
  • $40

$30 purchased in advance.


Ages of Enchantment: A celebration of traditional Japanese performing and folk arts highlights five classic Japanese arts disciplines: traditional Kimono, Nichibu Dance, Bon Odori, Kagura and Bunraku. A splendid introduction or re-introduction to high folk arts of Japan’s Osaka, Akita and Shimane prefectures, the show includes detailed explanations together with photo and video projections offered before each live performance in order to promote better understanding of these unique features of Japanese culture. More information on each of the five major disciplines featured:

Bunraku Puppet Theater, an Osaka Tradition
Bunraku, a centuries-old style of Japanese puppet theater, is very popular in Osaka. It has been designated by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Bunraku makes its return to New York after its debut in the city 25 years ago. Bunraku is typically performed with puppets on a wide stage, accompanied by highly-expressive chanting by a tayu, an oral storyteller, ningyoshi or puppeteers and musician playing a shimasen, a three-string instrument. In this special performance, only three puppeteers — Kanichi Yoshida, Montake Kiritake and Tamahiko Yoshida – will perform.

Usually, the Bunraku performers do not interact with audiences, but before their segment, they will discuss Bunraku’s 400-year-old techniques. They will explain how they work together. (The first puppeteer operates the body and right hand of the puppet, the second one operates the left hand, and the third member moves the legs).

Iwami Kagura dance from Shimane
Popular in the Shimane Prefecture, Kagura features 50 episodes from the Japanese mythology. Originally Kagura was a theatrical dance ritual of the Shinto religion held in November for celebrating the harvest, but it later became theatrical entertainment for the general public.

This show will present a chapter known as Orochi, the story of a legendary, divine figure who defeats giant monster serpents. In the tale’s climax, 17-meter long serpents made of a specialty paper and bamboo appear onstage, the most prominent feature of Iwami Kagura. Orochi will be accompanied by live music played by a six-member ensemble to capture the authenticity and spirit of Kagura when it is performed in Shimane. The musicians are Riley Sumala, Patrick Cole, Yuki Takeuchi, Miki Kosugi, Yuki Dellipaoli and Ryo Shiba (all from the New York area). Featured will be performer Masatsugu Sakai, originally from Shimane prefecture, who plays the god Susanoo, a hero of fighter. The three serpents will be played by Takashi Hosoi, Sho Miya and Aoi Kadonishi, who practiced to handle them for a year.

Bon Odori dance from Akita
Bon Odori has roots in Buddhist religious ritual and is performed in every corner of Japan during the summer, around the national holidays during the August 13-18 period, often with audience participation. However, Nishimonai Bon Odori is a special one, prominent among Japan’s Cultural Intangible Heritage of folk performing arts. Every summer, around 100,000 tourists come to the Akita Prefecture to see its costumes and unique dances performed over three days. People sometimes pay for preferred seating, otherwise, it is always free.

Nishimonai Bon Odori, now 700 years old, is preserved only by the villagers of Nishimonai. When outsiders participate, they must train specially for it. This is only the fifth time that Nishimonai Bon Odori has been presented in the USA. After getting permission to teach authentic Bon Odori dancing, Yuko Hamada made several visits over a four-year period to the Akita Prefecture to study this dance style. The dancers are Nozomi Ariake, who is originally from Akita prefecture, Sayaka Wada, Kawazu Noriko, Hitomi Ozaki, Akiko Matsumoto, Ayako Yoshimoto.

Kimono Show
The Kimono (which literally means “a thing to wear” in English), a traditional Japanese garment, has a 1,200-year of history. This segment of the show will be both educational and entertaining as it will showcase an array of one traditional bridal and eight formal kimonos along with a presentation about their history. At the midpoint of the show, the five female dancers, Sayaka Wada, Yuka Notsuka, Ayaka Taniguchi, Ayaka Yoshimoto and Aya Ikeda, will demonstrate how to wear their Kimonos while dancing. The number’s choreographer is Sayaka Wada.

The experts appearing in this event have been trained and certified in the intricate art of the kimono. They are Emi Kikuchi (who will be dressing a wedding kimono on a model for the show), Yukari Mizuchi (a coordinator for color and materials of Kimonos the models’ hair designs) and Saori Morris. There will be seven designers preparing kimono hair styles (they will also be styling the hair of the Nihon Nuyo dancers):Yukari Mizuuchi, Toshitsugu Kubota, Saori Morris, Yukie Nammori, Tomomi Iwata, Mika Saijo and Satoshi Ikeda

Nihon Buyo (or Nichibu)
The second part of the show features Nihon Buyo, one of the major traditional Japanese dances which has branched out into about 200 schools. Nihon Buyo was inspired by the movements in Kabuki and Noh and became established as a dance genre over the past 400 years. To better illustrate the uniqueness of these movements, a Western Ballet dance will be performed to contrast it with Nihon Buyo.

“The movements of traditional dance in any country is a way of expressing its cultural values,” according to Yuko Hamada. “For instance, with Western movements such as ballet, the energy that spirals inside of the body must move outward while in traditional Japanese movements, the energy tends to go inward.” JPA’s Nichibu show will be performed dancers with Takashi Hosoi, Sho Miya, Tsubasa Nishioka in Hakama costumes, and Motoko Tadano, Noriko Kawazu, Anami Midori, Hitomi Ozaki, Akiko Matsumoto wearing white make-up, Japanese traditional hair styles and dragging kimono, geisha style.