An important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan

English version now available!  
10 video tapes and booklets with commentary both in Japanese and English

The first-ever video series to cover all of the genres of GAGAKU, the traditional court music of Japan, performed by musicians and dancers of the Music Department of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Now available in addition a one hour version of these gagaku videos!
All performances in one cassette.

Awarded THE SPECIAL JURY PRIZE at 44th Competition for Films and Videos on Japan, 2000 Tokyo

Visit Japanese Gagaku page if your browser can read Japanese fonts

With the support of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the generous cooperation of the Imperial Household Agency, the Shimonaka Memorial Foundation has had the privilege of producing a collection of videos recording performances by the master musicians and dancers of the Music Department of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial Household Agency.

They perform traditional music and dance of ancient origins, which is designated by the Japanese government as an Important Intangible Cultural Property.

This collection includes pieces from all of the genres of gagaku (court music) transmitted and performed by the palace musicians today: kuniburi no utamai, or accompanied vocal music and dance of indigenous origin employed in Imperial and Shinto ceremony; kangen and bugaku, instrumental music and accompanied dance deriving from the ancient performing arts of the Asian mainland; and saibara and roei, genres of accompanied vocal music originating at the Heian court of the ninth to twelfth centuries.

In addition to its music and dance, gagaku also preserves a rich body of masks and costumes. It is a part of Japan's cultural heritage that we are proud to be able to pass on to the people of the twenty-first century. While there has been a growing interest in gagaku in recent years, it is still true that opportunities for viewing its riches are still limited.

In this series, therefore, we have endeavored to capture on video detailed aspects of its performance that are difficult to appreciate even in live performance, in the hope that it will contribute to a broader understanding of the essence of the art.

Chairman of the Board of Directors
Shimonaka Memorial Foundation



This video collection includes representative examples from all three major genres of traditional music and dances performed at the Music Department of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

kuniburi no utamai

kangen and bugaku

saibara and roei

series 1: six VHS video cassettes with commentary booklet (Japanese only)

1. Azuma-asobi (37 min.)

2. Kume-mai (20 min.)

3. Etenraku: Kokorigaku-sanben (41 min.)

4. Engiraku (29 min.)

5. Bato (29 min.)

6. Materials I: Instruments and Notation (54 min.)

Commentary Booklet 1 (in Japanese, on tapes 1-6)

series 2: four VHS video cassettes with commentary booklet (both in Japanese and English; the English commentary covers both series)

7. Taiheiraku (47 min.)

8. saibara: Ise-no-umi and Koromogae
(19 min.)

9. roei: Kashin and Koyo (16 min.)

10. Materials II: Costumes, Masks and Properties
(104 min.)

Commentary Booklet 2 (in Japanese, on tapes 7-10 in English, on tapes 1-10)

Supervised by TSUGE Gen'ichi, Professor, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Musics
Japanese commentary by ENDO Toru, Lecturer, Tokyo Education and Liberal Arts University
English commentary by Steven G. NELSON, Associate Professor, Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music, Kyoto City University of Arts
Produced by OKADA Kazuo, Director, Encyclopaedia Cinematographica Japan Archives, Shimonaka Memorial Foundation
With the cooperation of TokyoCinema Inc.


Those who wish to have a four pages full color catalogue (in Japanese) and order the video series please contact:
Shimonaka Memorial Foundation, Mr. OKADA Kazuo e-mail:

Production of the English version was supported by a grant from the Japan Foundation

Tapes 1-5 and 7-9 are without narration so only English subtitles are provided on the Japanese titles. For the convenience of foreign users who understand or wish to study GAGAKU intensively, the Japanese titles are retained in the English version.

the series I  128,000 Yen  
the series II  88,000 Yen
the full set   216,000 Yen

We will ship the videos by EMS (Express Mail Service) and shipment expenses will be covered by us. We regret that SMF cannot accept credit cards. DD (Demand Draft cheque) and TT (Telegraphic Transfer to our Bank Account) are welcomed. 
Order Sheet Download:

page started 1999.12.25.
final update 2002.11.15.

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