Japanese Dragon

This is a dragon dance from a shrine on a Kyoto weekend. This was my first time to witness the Japanese version of the dance.

There is a large Chinese community in the Philippines, so Chinese dragon dances are commonplace, especially around February during the Chinese New Year. The Chinese dragon dance is usually very cheerful, loud and energetic. The crowds cheer, the band plays drums and gongs and other loud instruments, the red dragon dances lively and interacts with the crowd… It’s very festive.

The Japanese dragon dance I witnessed, in contrast, was somber. The crowd was silent, in awe, mesmerized. The air hung heavy with smoke and the intoxicating smell of incense. The gongs sounded scarcely, yet in tune with the dragon’s gait. The green dragon moved slowly, fluidly, large and elegant and intimidating. It seemed alive. When it paused and looked at you, you’d feel a shiver down your spine.

I wasn’t able to see the dragon up close. There were far too many people, and I was on the other side of the mountain. But I hope someday I will be able to witness the beautiful Japanese dragon dance again.