Odo Island Kagura

Sounds of Odo Island


From shrines to priests to to brain waves to psychic reading to ritual songs and prayers to awaken the gods to holy books, Godzilla movies are deeply spiritual and metaphysical, steeped in ritual and sacrifice, play in pseudoscience, and are rooted in the religions, myths, folklore, history, and traditions of Japan. Religious beliefs and rituals shape Godzilla movies on screen and behind the screen.

Toho Shinto ceremony prior to the release of Godzilla (1954). Akihiko Hirata as priest and Momoko Kochi as shrine maiden (© Toho Company, Ltd., Source: War Scars and World Renewal: GODZILLA (1954))

From the beginning, religion and ritual were a meaningful tool and weapon to battle kaiju. In Godzilla (1954), the karura is their only line of defense for the people of Odo Island, where Godzilla would become real horror rather than simply the stuff of legends. Godzilla was known by the older islanders who turned to exorcisms and sacrifice to turn him away. The remains of human sacrifice were songs and dance. For this scene, music legend Akira Ifukube created a special kagura (大戸島神楽 Odo Island Kagura). It conveyed all the fears and uncertainties on the island that would go dark with the approaching storm and monster.

The kagura (神楽, かぐら, literally “god-entertainment”) is a type of Shinto ritual ceremonial dance. It is still conducted in Japan. During the performance, the gods are believed to be present. The dancer turns into a god and receives an oracle. The dancer is possessed by the god and goes into a trance. The kagura in Godzilla (00:11:25) was not the first time Ishiro Honda incorporated it in a film. In his debut film, The Blue Pearl (1951, 00:24:36), he featured the kagura.

Ishiro Honda’s kagura in Blue Pearl (1951) and Godzilla (1954)

In honor of ifukube’s kagura, Olympus 32 (オリュンポス32歌神), a male a cappella chorus, performed his famous kagura in their distinctive voices. The performances are available on the CD, Stirring Odo Island: Akira Ifukube Selection 5 (Exciting Godzilla Series)「豪快な大戸島/伊福部昭選集5(豪快なゴジラシリーズ)」published by BKM Record (Bukimisha, 不気味社CD), roughly translated, “Creepy Company.” There are eight tracks:

  1. Kagura on Odo Island「大戸島の神楽 」
  2. Japanese Suite: Bon Odori 1「日本組曲: 盆踊 」
  3. Japanese Suite: Tanabata 2「日本組曲: 七夕」
  4. Japanese Suite: Performance「日本組曲: 演伶 」
  5. Japanese Suite: Nebuta 3「日本組曲: 佞武多」
  6. Japanese Rhapsody: Night Song「日本狂詩曲: 夜曲」
  7. Japanese Rhapsody: Festival「日本狂詩曲: 祭り」
  8. SF Symphony Fantasy No. 1 「SF交響ファンタジー第1番」
  9. Kagura on Odo Island「大戸島の神楽」

The cover art was created by legendary Godzilla artist Yuji Kaidai. Prominently featured is the shrine priest performing the kagura with a silhouette of Godzilla wearing a party hat approaching Odo Island. Listen to a 10 second sample.

Cover: 豪快な大戸島 Stirring Odo Island | 伊福部昭先生卒寿 Happy Birthday to Dr. Akira Ifukube | 呉爾羅様艾年記念盤 Godzilla’s Anniversary Edition; Back cover: 大戸島の神楽 ① Kagura of Odo Island ① | 日本組曲 盆踊/七夕/演伶/佞武多 ②③④⑤ Japanese Suite Bon Odori / Tanabata / Performance / Nebuta ②③④⑤ | 日本狂詩曲 夜曲/祭り ⑥⑦ Japanese Rhapsody Nocturne/Festival ⑥⑦ |SF交響ファンタジー第1番 ⑧ SF Symphonic Fantasy No. 1 ⑧ | 伊福部昭先生卒寿と不気味社社主邂逅の(撮影開田裕治) Mr. Akira Ifukube’s 90th birthday and his chance encounter with the owner of the Creepy Company (photographed by Yuji Kaida)

CD 1: 豪快な大戸島 Stirring Odo Island | 不気味社謹製 Made by Creepy Company | G.R.F.014; CD 2: G.R.F.014 豪快な大戸島 G.R.F.014 Stirring Odo Island

I purchased this cool 2-CD set from Booth through Buyee Japan. Bukimisha and Olympus 32 has many other tokusatsu CDs such as Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, MechaGodzilla, Daimajin, King Ghidorah, Ultraman, Dogora, Latitude Zero, and more.


1. Bon Odori (盆踊り), meaning simply “Bon dance”, is a style of dancing performed during Obon. (Source: Wikipedia)

2. Tanabata, also known as the ‘Star Festival’, is a Japanese celebration which takes place on the seventh day of the seventh month. According to Japanese folklore, this is the only day of the year when the two stars, Altair and Vega, can meet (Source: Wikipedia).

3. The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture. (Source: Wikipedia)