April 15, 2015

1526 JAPAN (Kansai) - Gagaku (UNESCO ICH)

In this postcard is a Bugaku dance performance (accompanied by a Gagaku orchestra) at Ise Jingū (Ise Shrine), probably during the Spring Kagura Festival. Gagaku (lit. "elegant music") is the oldest of the Japanese performing arts and encompasses three distinct arts: Kuniburi no Utamai (Shinto religious music and folk songs and dance, accompaniment by harp and flute), Komagaku (played as a dance accompaniment and uses only winds and percussion instruments), and Utamono (danced to vocal music whose texts include Japanese folk songs and Chinese poems). It was introduced into Japan with Buddhism from China, and has been performed at the Imperial Court in Kyoto for several centuries. Influenced by the politics and culture of different periods, Gagaku continues to be transmitted in the Music Department of the Imperial Household Agency. It is not only an important cultural tool in confirming Japanese identity, but also a demonstration of how multiple cultural traditions can be fused into a unique heritage.

Gagaku also accompanies classical dance performances called Bugaku, that has been performed to select elites mostly in Japanese imperial courts for over twelve hundred years. In this way it has been an upper class secret, although after WWII the dance was opened to the public and has even toured around the world in 1959. Performed on a square platform by dancers wearing intricate traditional Buddhist costumes, is marked by slow, precise and regal movements. It draws heavily from the Buddhist imported culture, but also incorporates many traditional Shinto aspects. These influences eventually mixed together and over the years were refined into something uniquely Japanese.

Jingū is the name used for the shrines of particularly high status, associated exclusively with Japan’s imperial family, and with Kōshitsu Shintō (also known as Imperial House Shintō, State Shintō, or Jingū Shintō), the form of Shinto practiced by the emperor and the imperial family. Shrines in the Jingū category are typically devoted to Amaterasu-ōmikami, the sun goddess and supreme deity who is considered the ancestor of the imperial family. The name Jingū alone can refer only to the Ise Jingū, whose official name is just Jingū. Ise Jingū (one of Shinto's holiest and most important sites, because is considered the home of Yata no Kagami (the Sacred Mirror), is in fact a shrine complex composed of 123 Shinto shrines centered on two main shrines, Naikū (The Inner Shrine, also officially known as Kōtai Jingū), dedicated to Amaterasu, and Gekū (The Outer Shrine, also officially known as Toyouke Daijingu), dedicated to Toyouke no ōmikami, the deity of agriculture and industry.

The Shinto shrines are structures whose main purpose is to house one or more kami, their most important buildings being used for the safekeeping of sacred objects, and not for worship. This doesn't mean that devotees don't celebrate and don't offer adoration for the kami. Ascetic practices, shrine rituals and ceremonies and Japanese festivals are the most public ways to do that. An important event which occurs at Ise Jingū is Kagurasai Ceremony, that held twice in Spring and Autumn, with performance of sacred music and dance. The purpose is to give thanks to the kami and express hope for peace. It takes place on the specially set stage at the garden in Naikū (in case of rain, on the stage of Sanshuden). 

About the stamps
About the first stamp (without face value or other inscriptions) I can't say anything, and about the second, depicting an Eastern Honeybee (Apis cerana), I wrote here. Neither about the last stamp I can't say anything.

Gagaku - Wikipedia
Gagaku - UNESCO official website
Bugaku - Wikipedia
Shintō Schools & Sects - Buddhism & Shintoism in Japan
Jingū - Official website
Ise Shinto - New World Encyclopedia

Sender: Elena / Itsumi (postcrossing) JP-660858
Sent from Nagoya (Chūbu / Japan), on 15.03.2015

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