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Tsuwano Sagimai -Heron Dance- UNESCO Cultural Heritage|鷺舞


Sagimai – Heron Dance – is considered as one of the important cultural treasures of Japan.

This is the sacred dance of the Yasaka Shrine Festival, performed in Tsuwano every year on the 20th and 27th of July.

Today it is designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Furyu-odori) and an Intangible Cultural Property by the Japanese Government.

This dance originated from Gion Festival, originally performed in Yasaka Jinja Shrine in Kyoto and was later brought to neighboring Yamaguchi.
It was in 1542 that the Yoshimi family of the Tsuwano clan introduced the Sagimai from Yamaguchi and made it part of the annual festival. In the old days it was believed that by performing this ritual, one can protect oneself from infectious diseases. 

It is said, that the Heron Dance in Tsuwano has been performed for more than 480 years and is the only place that has kept its original form.

Even at its origin, the then-capital Kyoto, the tradition was lost and for generations now, it has been carried on by the people of Tsuwano, who are proud to continue this tradition. 

In the dance, there are two white herons, one male and one female (the one with open mouth is the male). There are also two, red wigged boufuri who are fending off daemons with their long sticks.

Sagimai in the Tsuwano domain

It is said that the festival was held each year on Jun 7th and 14th (according to the lunar calendar), and that the domain lord himself would watch from the watching-tower on the main street in front of the palace.

 Tsuwano Hyakkeizu, Painting No. 17
Sagimai at Gion Festival

Sagimai starts from Yasaka Jinja Shrine, then performed in various places: in front of the palace, at the residence of the given year’s organizer, at the otabisho (temporary destination or midway resting point of the deity) as well as in front of mansions in Tonomachi, Hara and Nakajima.


There is also a Heron Dance performed by elementary school students, which started in the 1950s. Make sure to watch this charming performance too.

For more details, please contact the Tsuwano Tourism Association at tsuwanok@tsuwano.net

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