Ise kagura is characterised by lion dance and hokagei, a performance of acrobatics and comedy to the accompaniment of flute, drum and sasara etc. The performers of Ise kagura visit villages annually for undergoing purification ceremony. In old times Ise kagura groups visited villages across Japan and performed to those who couldn’t attend the great Ise pilgrimage. Villagers looked forward their coming, a rare opportunity of entertainment.
Ise kagura is a folk performing art, rooted in Tayu town, Mie prefecture. Several groups of kagura are collectively called Ise Daikagura Kosha. Nowadays the groups travel around various localities of Western Japan , following regular schedule every year, and give performances to drive away the evil spirit and to give good-luck charms from the famous Ise shrine. After the round, the groups give performances at local public plazas of the community or local shrines. In older days, their whole itinerary was on foot, pulling carts of their belongings behind them. Despite its high artistic standard, Ise kagura is facing the problem of attaining enough successors.
Ise kagura starts with Bell Dance performed by two one-man lion players. Four-Wind Dance follows this formal starting dance. Now leg performers join them and two men act a lion.
Hokagei is a programme of acrobatics using wood pole, dishes, cups and water etc. A long, thin, flexible pole is combined another pole, and another, on and on – finally the long, long, long whip reaches the highest tree branch, then from the top of the pole a shower of colourful paper flowers scatters. People raise a cheer and a chari, or crown, appears and apes the art, but fails all the time. Every failure of the chari buys a laugh.