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Kagura theatre costume and Mask of the Hirosima Prefecture

On October 15. 2003 Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkammer) received a gift - Japanese theatre Kagura's costume and mask. These theatrical attributes were made in the end of the 80-s of the 20th century and are identical copies of a traditional costume of a demonwoman Yetan and the demon's mask Hannya.

Kagura theatre is the most ancient traditional drama performance of Japan. It was first mentioned in written sources, dating back to the 9th century Anno Domini. Initially Kagura developed as one of the rituals of the Shinto religion, as a form of worshipping ancient Japanese gods. The word Kagura could be translated into Russian as "gods' music" of "music for the gods". One held picturesque performances at the shrines, during which priests and priestesses performed ritual dances and gave theatrical shows accompanied by the music and impersonating the Shinto myths, for example, the myth about the liberation of the goddess of the sun Amaterasu-no Oomikami of a myth about killing the dragon Yamato-no Oroti as well as some others. Usually the performance was dedicated to the highest god of the temple, where the ritual action took place.

While Kagura performances were addressed more to the gods, than to the people, the esthetic side of this theatrical action got a significance of its own. In the course of time one began to perceive Kagura not only as a religious ritual, but as a theatre. There emerged multiple varieties of Kagura, each possessing a typical local specific. At present Kagura theatre is extremely popular in Japan and is considered one of the most important phenomena of the national tradition. In the past, though, there was a time, when Kagura tradition nearly disappeared. Its revival is connected first of all with the Hiroshima prefecture, which gave this gift to the museum. The staging principles that have developed within the Kagura tradition laid the foundation for other Japanese traditional theatrical forms, for example No and Kabuki.

The costume, presented to the museum, is a symbol of a demonwoman (though this role is performed by a male actor) in her demonic image and is put on over the usual female garment. When the demon turns into a woman, the actor takes the costume and the mask off.