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West Japan shrine holds kagura dance to pray for end to coronavirus pandemic

A kagura dance performance of "Shoki" is seen under way in the city of Masuda, Shimane Prefecture, on March 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Yukihiro Takeuchi)

MASUDA, Shimane -- A traditional program of "kagura" Shinto dance was performed and broadcast live on YouTube as part of efforts pray for the end of the novel coronavirus pandemic at the Kushishirokahime Shrine in this western Japan city on the night of March 22.

The performance, "Shoki," tells the story of the Tang dynasty Chinese emperor Xuan Zong in the eighth century. In it, he is cured of a disease after having a dream in which the guardian god Shoki defeats an evil god that brings ill health.

The performance was organized by a group called "Kushiroshachu," which strives to preserve the local "Iwami Kagura" dance culture. They worked in cooperation with a video production company and a sound and lighting firm in the city. Although the show was held without an audience to prevent viral infections, about 2,000 people watched the 50-minute live stream.

Performances of Iwami Kagura scheduled in many parts of Shimane Prefecture were canceled due to the spread of the virus, and Kushiroshachu has voluntarily suspended its twice-a-week practices from March.

Leader of the group Yuisuke Kanda, 38, said, "We were able to dedicate the dance with more prayers than is usual. I pray that the pandemic will end as soon as possible, and hope that the dance will inspire kagura fans."

A video of the performance can be watched from this link:

(Japanese original by Yukihiro Takeuchi, Masuda Local Bureau)

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