Speaking of alternative realities, Richie on Butoh:

The actor/dancer outcast was given the task of personifying darkness since it was the sacred kagura, and the noble Noh, that represented light. Yami, the place of darkness, this was where the dancers danced, danced for yami no kamisama, the faceless unknown god of darkness. No matter how sunny the occasion, the village matsuri had its omikoshi, that massive float borne by the happy revelers. And inside this festive ark was that small black box where the faceless god—so far from the multifold deities of Shinto, from the embracing visage of Buddha himself—reveled in the chaotic bounding about, the disorderly shouting, the certain confusions of the dark.


Where did he get this from? Is it a Butoh thing? I’ve never heard of the black box, and could find no other references. The English and Japanese wikipedia articles say nothing about it, and the other sources I usually use (Encyclopedia of Shintô, JAANUS, JSTOR, Mark, Blacker) are also silent. Web searches in either language only led me to people who think the black cap (tokin) on the forehead of shûgenja somehow would be a box derived from the Jewish phylactery, or even the Ark of the Covenant…

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of yami-no-kamisama either (except the one in the Ookami videogame…). It’s certainly not literal Yami. Anyone?

3 thoughts on “Yami-no-who?

  1. Never heard of it either, and I share your doubt that it’s really a thing (as the kids say) in the sense that there is a documented tradition of jostling a box containing a non-Shinto “yami no kamisama” around at festival time.

    But, since the original full Japanese name of Butoh was “暗黒舞踏” (“dance of darkness”), I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was some Butoh mythology that Richie either accepted at face value or is transmitting unchanged without comment.

  2. That was my impression too, though I couldn’t find the origin of the mythology even searching for Butoh things. (I mean quick searches in the Internet, not real research; I’m clueless regarding Butoh). It is a pretty cool piece of mythology though.

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