Bitchu Kagura Dance originated in an ancient belief, held by the people of the Nariwa area, that natural disasters, disease and other such misfortunes were brought upon them by a god named Kojin. This special dance was created in order to appease the god and although quite unsophisticated in the beginning, it was improved upon with time and has now become a complex and popular performance indispensable for major festivals such as autumnal agricultural festivals and New Years Day. Bitchu Kagura was originally performed only by shinto priests, but due to its complexity it is now performed by special dancers called Kagura Dayu.
As the local performing art, three different dances are popular amongst the citizens as well having gained notoriety throughout the country. These three dances have the themes: 'Birth of the Nation', 'Division of Territory', and 'The Battle against a Serpent'. These dances were created around 200 years ago by Kokkyo Nishibayashi who grew up here in the town of Nariwa. He wrote them based upon Kojiki and Nihonshoki two famous birth myths of Japan
Bitchu Kagura Dance was registered as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the national government in 1974. The people of the Bitchu Area (where Nariwa town is located) have great pride in this special dance and look forward to its performance every year.
THE DANCE OF SARUDAHlKONOMlKOTO
This dance is based on a myth about the time that Sarudahikonomikoto, a descendant of the gods, came down from heaven to rule the people of Japan, defeating all who opposed him on the bridge between heaven and earth.
Through this dance the people pray to this god for the happiness of their families, protection from natural disasters, disease, traffic accidents etc, and for the prosperity of their children. For this reason it is performed at the very beginning of Kagura dance programs. The origins of this dance can be traced back to a time well before the Kamiyo Kagura of today took its present form.
The dance is famous for its dynamic splendor and is performed by either two or four people.
OKUNINUAHI HANDS OVER HIS LAND
Two messengers from Takamagahara come to the region of Inasanohama where they meet the leader of the region, Okuninushi, visiting his people.
They tell him to hand his territory over to the god who is shaping the country, but Okuninushi is not happy and falls into a heated debate with the messengers and a man named Inasehagi. Inasehagi tries to mediate and settle the matter but being unable to do so, brings in Okuninushi's son, hoping that discussion between father and son will help to resolve the problem. Despite strong objection from one of his followers, Okuninushi and his son finally decide to dedicate their land to the god.
SUSANO AND THE GIANT SERPENT
Susano is punished for his bad behavior and is sent to the far away land of Nenokuni. As he wanders the region, he comes upon a couple doing a dance of mournig.
In response to his questioning, they tell him of a giant serpent, which is attacking and eating the young maidens of the village, and of their fears for the safety of their own daughter.
Susano wishes to take their daughter as his wife, and so enlists the help of Matsunomyojin who makes a batch of poisonous sake. Susano gives this sake to the serpent and saves the village.