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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 and is now designated as an intangible cultural asset by the Japanese Government. Currently Tsuwano is the only location in Japan where the Heron Dance (a nationally designated intangible cultural asset) has been continuously practiced for over 400 years and performed 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 mating dance of the actual birds. The entourage of performers visit 11 places throughout the town, with the first day starting at Yasaka Shrine on the 20th and returning to Yasaka Shrine on the second day, July 27th. The herons are believed to protect the people from illness and disease, and 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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