Yamairagawa is a small village down south Tsuruoka City. Bordered with giant forests and wide rice fields, Yamairagawa is the perfect depiction of that calm and quiet Japanese haven you would dream of after watching My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away. Halfway between Atsumi Onsen and Nezugaseki village, it is the only "mountain-like" village" connecting the two places.
Twice a year, the village organizes a Noh & Kabuki festival: one in May 3rd and one in November 23rd. The one during November is a classic Kabuki play, quiet and solemn. The one in May 3rd is the most peculiar one. If it's your first time seeing Yamairagawa's Kabuki, you'll be surprised to see everybody drinking alcohol, being loud and laughing out loud, encouraging the actors on scene.
It was my case. It was my first time seeing Kabuki. Although I had already watched Kurokawa Noh in Kushibiki Village (I will talk about it in another article), it was very quiet and people were listening almost religiously to the actors' chants.
But when the Noh play was over, I didn't expect that much noise for the Kabuki play.
"Do it!", "you look cool!", "do your best Daddy!" so many voices coming from all over the room, adding to the loud claps, and the whistles and the laughs.
I asked the organizer, Mr. Honma, why they were allowed to be so loud. He answered me this:
The laughs, the shouts, the loud atmosphere, all of this is caused by drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol allows people to make one with the gods (rice is given by gods, hence, saké is the gods' drink) and the Noh and Kabuki plays act as offerings to please them. What a joyful way to commune with the gods!
I could watch Kabuki for free. They don't ask for money to go see the play, however, there is a donation box if you want to support the village or show your appreciation. The shrine (Kawachi Shrine 川内神社) where the plays are performed is located up a little forest. Just follow the signs.