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About KUKAMI MATSURI (Nine Oni Festival)

Dorogawa (洞川), located in the southeastern part of Nara Prefecture's Okuyamato area, is known as a remote region spreading at the foot of Mount Ōmine. In the latter half of the 7th century, Enno Gyōja, a mountain ascetic, founded the area and carved out a 1300-year history as a sacred site of Shugendō (mountain asceticism). In Dorogawa,  the Oni’s married couple Zenki (前鬼) and Goki (後鬼), believed to be Enno Gyōja's attendants, and their statues are solemnly guarded in the local Ryusenji Temple. Particularly, stories related to Goki have been passed down by the descendants of Goki and are still recounted in the lives of the people in Dorogawa. However, due to two major fires that occurred in the post-war period in this area, much was lost, and a large part of the materials that tell the history of this land no longer exist, leaving numerous mysteries unsolved.


When considering the definition of "鬼" ('oni' in Japanese), the mythical creatures appearing in folktales often possess strong characteristics of supernatural beings or monsters. From a folkloric perspective, they symbolize things beyond human comprehension, the extraordinary, abilities beyond the ordinary, spirituality, and divinity. The term "鬼っ子" ('onikko') is also used to describe individuals who stand out or deviate from others, similar to "outlaws." Moreover, considering the connotation of being non-artificial, the essence of "鬼" lies in the very essence of natural and supernatural energies themselves.


KUKAMI MATSURI (Nine Oni Festival) is based on the original story "九鬼物語” (The Tale of the Nine Oni) that emerged from this context and is held as a community-based art festival. From the conceptual stage of planning, poet TANIKAWA Shuntaro has been involved as a producer, entrusting words to the nine artists who portray "oni."


Drawing inspiration from these verses, these "oni" artists collaborate with the local residents of Dorogawa, and they present their artworks that have been created through stays and collaborations. 

Furthermore, the artworks created during this event, with the consent of the creative partners, will remain in Dorogawa even after the conclusion of KUKAMI MATSURI. They will continue to exist alongside the land and its people, forging a path towards the future together.


This project was conceived by the artists who originally participated in the "OKUYAMATO MIND TRAIL Museum in your mind" event held in Tenkawa area in 2021. Enchanted by Dorogawa, they envisioned the KUKAMI MATSURI as a means to maintain their connection with the people of Dorogawa and launched it as an independent initiative. The festival, led by the nine ‘oni’ artists and the people of Dorogawa, aims to create a new tradition,  contribute to passing down of Dorogawa's culture and play a role in promoting tourism in the Dorogawa area.

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