Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

The Golden Dragon Dance of Tokyo

The Golden Dragon Dance of Tokyo
Golden Dragon Dance Celebrates Asakusa’s Beginning

The Golden Dragon of Asakusa

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-Mai” in Japanese — is conducted not by people but by a golden dragon.

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.

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

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.

Touching the dragon’s head is thought to bring good fortune.

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.

The golden dragon about to devour a photographer

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

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

March 26, 2008 - Posted by | buddhism, culture, dance, event, festival, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, tokyo, tradition, travel


  1. How do you find out about all these festivals? I live in Tokyo and have never heard about half of them… until I read the report on here.

    Comment by Brian | March 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Dave, great entry. I’m thinking of going there to check out this event on 18/03 this year. Just wondering, what time do you have to be there in order to get a good spot?

    Comment by CT | March 3, 2010 | Reply

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