Tokyobling's Blog

Asakusa Sagimai – Egret Dancers

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on December 9, 2012

For years I have known the photo of the ladies dressed in white egret costumes, dancing at Japanese temples in certain festivals, but I have never been able to catch one of the performances live. It is said the tradition of dressing up as the slender white egrets that you often see in Japanese rice fields or rivers started in Shimane prefecture about 500 years ago. These days the ritualized dance called sagimai (鷺舞) takes place in a handful of places around Japan, with slight variations. It is probably one of the most spectacular ritual dances in Japan today. I came across this performance in Asakusa on the morning of the great Jidai Matsuri (festival of the ages) where they had an unannounced performance right in front of the temple. It was hugely crowded and the only thing I could do to get a decent shot was to use a zoom lens from quite a distance, it was too crowded to get anywhere near the dancers at street level, so unfortunately I can’t show you just how cool the look when they mimic the birds and the move in a synchronized group. After their performance, they paraded out of the temple grounds to prepare for the grand procession later in the day. If you ever have the option of seeing one of these dances, I really recommend you take it! Some day I will get my chance too!

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9 Responses

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  1. Sabine said, on December 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Although you didn’t get a chance to take shots of the mimicking of the Egret movements, these photographs are still stunning. The details with the costumes are truly spectacular, making it somewhat filled with purity.

    The portraiture of the woman (third image from last) has such a beautiful gaze as well : )

  2. amadl said, on December 10, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Ah, but the pictures are still amazing :)

  3. Timi said, on December 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Not just the costumes, but the makeup looks lovely too! I wish I could see the real thing!

    • tokyobling said, on December 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Thank you Timi! I assure you, it looks much better in reality! (^-^;)

  4. anjifrosch said, on December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Lovely photos!
    I saw them once dancing in Asakusa (last year October?) and it was nice. But they passed by on the street so I also could just take a few snaps.
    Anyway they aren’t as far as great as your photos! Amazing!!

    • tokyobling said, on December 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! I will have to do better the next time they put on a show… if I can get a good place to shoot from!

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