At the Shirasaginomai, White Egret Dance, in Tokyo’s Asakusa district last month I saw these adorable little pre-schoolers taking part in the pre-ceremony parade. The kids were followed by adults in charge of the ceremony and then the dancers. The next full ceremony is sceduled for November, so if you are in town, you’ll know where to go!
More photos from the white egret dancers – the shirasaginomai (白鷺の舞) at Asakusa’s Sensoji last weekend. During the ceremony one of the participants throw confetti in the air. I didn’t manage to catch any this time around, but they are actually small good luck charms that the people watching were really happy to catch as they blew past in the strong wind. The kids were adorable when they fought the impulse to run out and catch them! This is definitively one of my favorite ceremonies of Tokyo!
Twice a year at Asakusa’s famous Sensoji temple an old ceremony of dancers dressed as white egrets or herons take place, once in April and once in November. The ceremony is called Shirasaginomai (白鷺の舞) and was revived in 1968 using an old scroll as a basis that had been found in the temple, depicting a ceremonial dance in 1652. The dancers are instructed by the famous Yasaka shrine in Kyoto, and is joined by children from the temple kindergarten. There are three performances, one in the morning and two in the afternoons, and all of them start with a parade overseen by local monks and ends in the same way, followed by a large dashi (ceremonial wagon) where flute players and drummers accompany the dancers in the ceremony and parades. These photos are from the last performance of the day, the wind was strong and some of the dancers really looked like they were going to take off from the ground when their spread wings were picked up by the wind! More photos to come!
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!