Kagura refers to the traditional dance that Shinto God believers offer to the Gods as a way to receive blessings or protection. In the case of Demon Slayer, the Kamados’ dance, the Hinokami Kagura, is a form of traditional dance passed on by their ancestors to generations of Kamados.
According to Tanjiro’s Mother, Kei kamado, Tanjuro dances the Hinokami Kagura or the Dance of the Fire God to receive protection from the said God as he works with fire being a coal burner. The said dance also requires a special way of breathing to be able to dance continuously without stopping. The special breathing also protects the body from the cold when performing the Kagura during winter.
The Hinokami Kagura, also called the Dance of the Fire God, is a very important Kagura in the Demon Slayer Universe. According to Tanjuro Kamado, the Dance of the Fire God is a traditional dance that helps the performer gain incomparable strength and endurance through strict breath control.
Only the descendants of the Kamado bloodline are the only ones who know the Hinokami Kagura. Moreover, the Kamado household’s eldest son must pass on the techniques of performing the Hinokami Kagura uninterruptedly, along with the Hanafuda earrings that the Kamados inherited from their ancestors.
The Hinokami Kagura is performed wearing a formal Shinto priest vestment called “Joue,” a cloth cover on the face with the kanji for flame (炎) written on it, and a staff resembling the shape of fire. The outer robe of the Joue, called “Joue no sodegukuri no o,” that Tanjuro Kamadao used when he performed the Hinokami Kagura, has a striking flame pattern and blazing color on it.
The staff used in the Hinokami Kagura is supposed to be a substitute for a Nichirin Sword that Yoriichi Tsugikuni, the originator of the Sun breathing technique, used when performing the Sun Breathing technique in front of the Kamado household, Sumiyoshi’s family, that started the passing on of the Hinokami Kagura.
The later descendants of the Kamados didn’t know that the Hinokami Kagura is actually a sword technique used to destroy demons since a lot of information is lost as the technique is passed from one generation of Kamados to another. Eventually, the sword technique turned into a Kagura, and the concept of “Sun” became “fire” or “flame” relating to their family livelihood in the recent generations of Kamados.
Check out our other article, “Inheritor of the Breath of Sun Meaning” to learn more about the Kamados.
Kagura kanji Meaning
The term Kagura is commonly used in the religious context in the Japanese language. The word Kagura is written as 神楽 using kanji (Chinese characters) in the Japanese language. It is composed of two separate kanji, meaning God and enjoyment.
The kanji 神 has On-Yomi (Chinese way of reading) /Shin/ and /Jin/. Its Kun-Yomi (Japanese way of reading) is/Kami/, /Kan/, and /Kou/. The kanji 神 has a dictionary meaning God or deity.
On the other hand, the kanji 楽 has On-Yomi /Gaku/ and /Raku/ while its Kun-Yomi is /Tano/ for Tanoshi or Tanoshimu. Its dictionary meanings are music, pleasure, comfort, ease, enjoyment, and pleasure.
The kanji for Kagura don’t follow the individual On-Yomi or Kun-Yomi of each individual kanji in the word 神楽. This is mainly because such a word is one of those traditional words with a special type of reading to fit their function or meaning. You’ll encounter these kinds of words when you learn the Japanese language at a higher level, such as in N1 or N2 levels.
The term Kagura has a literal meaning of “God Entertainment.” It is used to refer to the ceremonial dance that the Shinto priests and Miko or Shrine Maiden do during a cleansing ceremony. The kagura is often performed by female shamans or beautiful Shinto Miko or Shrine Maidens equipped with ceremonial masks and ceremonial staff called “Gohei.” However, there are also times when a priest performs the Kagura instead, especially when there are no qualified Miko or Shrine Maidens to perform the ceremony.
Kagura: Japanese Traditional Dance offering for the Gods
The Kagura is performed through a slow procession and a rhythmic movement accompanied by music played through traditional instruments such as the Taiko drums. While dancing, the Miko or Shrine Maidens waves her Shinto staff as a way to bless the audience and cleanse the surroundings.
When the Miko or Shrine Maidens perform the ceremonial dance, it is said that the Shinto Gods who receive the dance offering sends its presence to the performer’s body as a way of possession and provide oracle to the Miko or Shrine Maidens.
Article by John Salinas.
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