Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Transformations in Traditional Organizations to
Encourage the Continuation of Folk Performing Arts: Focusing on Organizations Supporting
Hiroshima’s Hibakojin Kagura


Department of Japanese History,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)

Key words:

Kojin worship, Hibakojin kagura, religious service organizations, myo, modernity

How are folk performing arts passed down from generation to generation? In this paper, I will consider this question with reference to the various strategies used by people from the local community in response to social change.

This paper will take as a case study of the Hibakojin Kagura, a kind of o-kagura performed in the towns of Saijo and Tojo in Shobara, Hiroshima Prefecture. In this region of Japan, there are religious service organizations called myo, responsible for putting on huge festivals called o-kagura. These o-kagura engender a significant economic burden for the myo, and recent social changes have made this burden harder and harder to bear. In this paper, I ask how, with the o-kagura threatened in this way, they managed to ensure its continuation.

From the cases observed in this study, it seems that the strategies employed for keeping up the o-kagura fall into three types, namely: mergers of religious organizations, collective enshrinement, and the restructuring of ritual organizations.

First, with the mergers, some religious service organizations or myo merged with one another, enabling them to perform the religious festivals together.

The second measure observed is that of collective enshrinement. In order to ensure the o-kagura continues, the individual deities of each myo were all enshrined together in a common local tutelary shrine.

The third way identified was the restructuring of the religious organization. First of all, a greater organization was created to unify the smaller units that had existed before, and a restructuring of the local festival system carried out simultaneously. As a result of these changes, the village had for the first time a deity which all its people worshipped.

What the above three methods all have in common is creating an increase in the number of participants in the o-kagura festivals, thus reducing the cost and burden per house. The principle on display here of putting on o-kagura with an emphasis on “equality” across the whole village and creating the “minimum possible” burden also led a change to the form that the festivals took. This change meant the villages were able to continue holding the festivals in spite of major obstacles such as people’s changes in occupation and the outflow of population from the region, both the results of advanced economic development. Meanwhile, as a result of increasing emphasis on equality, some of the original functions of o-kagura, such as reconfirming the statuses of people within the village and redistributing wealth, were lost.