Once in Seven Years Kagura
In Yama-no-Ue, Yakage, Japan, a small community puts on a kagura show every seven years.
The kagura show happens every year in Yakage, but seven communities within takes turn to host.
Kagura consists of a few masked performers who sing and dance and occasionally do standup. One performer sits off stage with a drum and occasionally spitball with the others, like a bard and late-night show host combined. All the performers make their own masks and wear robes with stunning landscapes and creatures embroidered on the back. Historically, the event tells tales of different gods from sunset to sunrise, but recently, so as to accommodate young families, it begins in the afternoon so as to end by midnight.
The show took place on a small patch of unused ground; a theater crafted from fabric, logs, and string.
A giant bonfire was tended to by the older men, though the maintenance grew precarious as sake bottles clattered empty to the ground. Attendees brought in snacks and blankets, at one point, even a gas stove was crowd surfed into the middle.
A festival tucked away in the mountains, no curfew, a glowing fire, a makeshift stage of performances that people half watch and half ignore to talk and drink and smoke or stand idly by the river. A Shinto priest for community members to go drink beer with. A finale with the tossing of mikans and snacks thrown aggressively like fireworks. A humble, Japanese, countryside rager.
There was no social media or PR to advertise, only the pleasant buzzing within a tiny community savoring this once-in-seven-years event. It was an absolute honor to attend, and an unforgettable testimony to tradition.