Asakusa Sagimai – Egret Dancers
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!