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Dragon Dancing in Asakusa, Tokyo
Young and old meet to commemorate an ancient visit of a golden creature
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2005-04-13 02:37 (KST)   
The Golden Dragon of Asakusa
©2005 myself
Once a year in Asakusa, located in the northeast edge of Tokyo, a special kind of early spring ritual dance is held. The dance -- called "Kinryu-no-Mae" in Japanese -- is conducted not by people but by a golden dragon.

Touching the dragon's head is thought to bring good fortune.
©2005 D. Weber
Naturally, it's not a real dragon but the dance commemorates the visitation of a "real" dragon of golden hue that appeared over 1,300 years ago.

The golden dragon entertains the crowd.
©2005 D. Weber
The golden dragon of today is merely a diminutive representation of the mighty majestic beast that dropped from the heavens one day long ago. The copy is a mere 15 meters long and weighs in at 75 kilos, while the real one was reportedly 30 meters long and weighed who knows what.

The golden dragon at rest
©2005 D. Weber
The golden dragon about to devour a photographer
©2005 D. Weber
What brought about this unexpected celestial visitation was the discovery of a small golden statuette of a Buddhist deity by two fishermen in the Sumida River on March 18, 628. The statue depicted Kannon, a popular deity known for her compassion in the face of human suffering.

This small statue was enshrined and the area later became a popular spot for pilgrims. Over time, the village of Asakusa expanded and its temple, Sensoji, where the statue was kept, grew in importance.

Had the visiting dragon been of Western extraction, it no doubt would have devoured the two fishermen on the spot and made off with the golden statue and taken it to its private hoard.

Oriental dragons, however, are generally more benevolent. They're known for dispensing wisdom and happiness rather than fire and poisonous fumes.

Golden dragons are rarely seen because they are often invisible. They only appear at certain moments to mark auspicious events, as one dragon did when the Kannon statue was found.

Ladies in geisha costume provide the golden dragon with traditional music to dance to.
©2005 D. Weber
The golden dragon dance is held in honor of both the dragon's visit and the statue's discovery which basically help to create Asakusa. Eight men hold the dragon aloft on poles and twist it about while ladies made up like geishas play music on traditional instruments. The dragon dances three times before it disappears for another year.

A mural of the dragon dance on the wall of Asakusa Station
©2005 D. Weber

©2005 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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