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Sagimai (Sacred Heron Dance)


Tsuwano's Sagimai Heron Dance, a tradition maintained for over 400 years


Originally performed at the Gion Festival in Kyoto, Sagimai was brought to Tsuwano in 1542. Currently Tsuwano is the only location in Japan where the Heron Dance has been continuously practiced for over 400 years. The performance takes place every year on July 20th and 27th. Sagimai is an annual ritual that includes two herons, one male and one female, and dozens of other performers who play flutes, drums and sing. The two herons spread their wings as they dance around each other, resembling the mating dance of the actual birds. The entourage of performers visit 11 places throughout the town, starting at Yasaka Shrine on the first day(July 20th) and return back to Yasaka Shrine on the second day, July 27th. The herons are believed to protect the people from illness and disease, while the dancers with the red wigs and long staffs are to ward off evil spirits. 

The heron costume weighs around 15kg (33lbs) in total. The head piece weighs 3kg (6.6lbs) and is 85cm (2.8ft) tall, while the wings are made up of 39 individual feathers that are made out of wood. 

In June 1961, the festival was designated as an intangible folk cultural asset by the prefecture.

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