Sagimai Dance Performances

Elegant Dances Kept Alive for Centuries in the Remote Mountains of Shimane

The Sagimai, also known as the Heron Dance, is a traditional dance that originated from the famous Gion Festival in Kyoto. Although it disappeared from its place of origin for centuries, it has been kept alive in Tsuwano, a small town in the remote mountains of Shimane. This unique dance is performed annually on July 20 and 27. In this article, we will explore the history and significance of the Sagimai dance, as well as provide insights into how to get to Tsuwano and experience this cultural spectacle firsthand.

History of the Sagimai Dance:
The Sagimai dance traces its roots back to the Gion Festival, one of japan‘s most famous and oldest festivals. This festival takes place in Kyoto and attracts millions of visitors each year. The Heron Dance, a highlight of the festival, captivated audiences with its graceful movements and elaborate costumes. However, over time, the dance disappeared from the festival, leaving only traces of its existence in historical records.

Fortunately, in Tsuwano, the Sagimai dance found a new home. The town embraced this ancient tradition and has been performing it for centuries. The dance has become an integral part of Tsuwano’s cultural heritage and is cherished by the local community.

The Mating Dance:
One of the most captivating aspects of the Sagimai dance is the mating dance performed by two dancers dressed in elaborate costumes. These dancers mimic the movements of graceful white herons, symbolizing the courtship rituals of these birds. Accompanied by flutes, drums, bells, and singers, the dancers create an enchanting atmosphere that transports the audience into the world of these majestic creatures.

During the mating dance, two attendants with bright red hair join the dancers, twirling batons as they circle around them. This adds an element of excitement and energy to the performance. Additionally, two musicians with small hand drums also participate in the dance, further enhancing the rhythmic and melodic elements of the performance.

Fantastic Costumes and Pageantry:
The Sagimai dance is not only mesmerizing in its movements but also visually stunning due to the elaborate costumes worn by the performers. The wings of the two heron dancers are composed of 39 wooden feathers, giving them a grand and dramatic appearance. The long-necked headpieces worn by the dancers add to the overall aesthetic of the performance.

Moreover, everyone involved in the dance is dressed in period costumes, transporting the audience back in time. One notable addition to the festivities is the “Chick Dance,” performed by scores of young local schoolgirls in procession. This recent addition adds a touch of youthfulness and vitality to the traditional dance.

How to Get There:
Tsuwano, the home of the Sagimai dance, is located in the remote mountains of Shimane. Despite its secluded location, reaching Tsuwano is relatively easy. If you are coming from Yamaguchi, you can take the Yamaguchi Line, which will bring you to Tsuwano in just over an hour.

Once you arrive in Tsuwano, you will find that the dance is performed at 11 different locations around the town. The procession starts at the Yasaka Shrine, located below the Taikodani Inari Shrine. You can easily find a spot to enjoy the approach of the procession, watch the dance, and then follow along to the next location. Many locals also join the procession, creating a festive and communal atmosphere.

Recommended for You:
If you have the opportunity to visit Tsuwano, there are other attractions in the area that you might find interesting. One such attraction is the Yamaguchi SL, a steam locomotive that offers scenic rides through the picturesque countryside of Tsuwano and Masuda. The nostalgic charm of the steam train journey combined with the natural beauty of the surroundings makes it a popular choice among tourists.

Another recommended destination is Inasa, a small village known for its traditional Japanese houses and stunning landscapes. The village is nestled in the mountains and offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Exploring the narrow streets and experiencing the local culture in Inasa is a unique and enriching experience.

The Sagimai dance is a testament to the resilience of cultural traditions. Despite disappearing from its place of origin, the dance found a new home in Tsuwano, where it has been preserved and cherished for centuries. The enchanting movements, elaborate costumes, and festive atmosphere make the Sagimai dance a must-see cultural experience.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, consider adding Tsuwano to your itinerary. Witnessing the Sagimai dance firsthand will not only provide insight into Japan’s rich cultural heritage but also leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Immerse yourself in the beauty and grace of the Heron Dance and discover the magic of Shimane’s remote mountains.

Address And Maps Location:

60-22 Ushiroda, Tsuwano-cho, Kanoashi-gun, Shimane-ken

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