LOCAL FESTIVALS GO NATIONAL
Hometown Nostalgia Sparks Boom in Traditional Events (December 13, 2004)
Yosakoi, Awa-odori, and Eisa are words guaranteed to evoke happy memories among
natives of Kochi, Tokushima, and Okinawa Prefectures, respectively, for they are
the names of traditional festivals unique to those regions. Recently, however,
these festivals rich in local color are being held not only in their regions of
origin but in localities all across Japan. In Tokyo and other urban areas, in
particular, which are home to many people from provincial regions, such festivals
are attracting larger and larger crowds. They are also helping to revive hometown
spirit and to bring neighbors closer together.
|Sapporo's Yosakoi Soran Festival (Jiji)
Taking the Capital by Storm
Some of the events held in Tokyo and other cities have surprisingly long histories.
The Tanabata festival, for example, which originated in Sendai, was first held
in Tokyo districts like Fussa and Asagaya in the 1950s and soon spread to Kagurazaka
and Shimo-kitazawa, and even to Matsudo City in Chiba Prefecture. The Awa-odori
festival held in the Koenji district of Tokyo's Suginami Ward is already a fixture
in Tokyo's summer calendar, and Eisa festivals are held in Shinjuku and Machida
City, both also in Tokyo.
The Kanagawa Yamato Awa-odori Festival, which takes place in the city of Yamato
in Kanagawa Prefecture, was held for the twenty-eighth time this year, attracting
some 450,000 participants. Sapporo's Yosakoi Soran Festival began in 1992 on the
initiative of a student who had been deeply impressed by the Yosakoi Festival
in Kochi Prefecture. It has since developed into a huge event that is famous across
New Festivals Springing Up
Gaining inspiration from these tradition-based urban festivals, a series of new
festivals has recently been launched. In July 2004, for example, Tokyo's Sendagaya
shopping street hosted the first ever Tendo-Sendagaya Exchange Festival, which
combined the hanagasa-odori (dancing) connected with
Tendo City, Yamagata Prefecture, with Tokyo ondo (folk
song). Tendo and Sendagaya share a connection through shogi
(Japanese chess). Tendo is famous for producing shogi
pieces, while Sendagaya is home to the Tokyo Office of the Japan Shogi Association.
Next autumn Tokyo's Arakawa Ward will host the Arakawa Yosakoi Festival. Outside
the metropolitan region, Wakayama City hosted the first Kishu Yosakoi Festival
in July, which attracted participation from 1,500 people, including some from
other prefectures. Other festivals that have been held outside their places of
origin include Gujo-odori, a form of dancing from Gujo-hachiman in Gifu Prefecture,
which took place in Aoyama, Tokyo; a version of Osaka's Kawachi Ondo Dancing Festival
that was held in Kinshicho, Tokyo; and a version of the Tanabata Edoro Festival
of Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, that was held in the Tokyo district of Kanda.
Bringing Communities Together
The most enjoyable aspect of a festival like these is the chance they provide
for people to get to know neighbors with whom they usually have little contact.
Traditional festival dancing is highly energetic and allows a lot of freedom for
individual interpretation, making it accessible to young people. The number of
ways that people can enjoy these dances is increasing year by year, with some
events taking the form of a competition and others being performed in teams. The
festival boom is rooted in local ties and in people's nostalgia for the regions
in which they grew up.
In the birthplace of Yosakoi, Kochi City, the Yosakoi Koshien festival was held
in September, with the aim of enabling middle and high school students nationwide
to experience Yosakoi. Participants came from far and wide to join in. The circle
of people around the country united by their passion for Yosakoi continues to
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
DANCING IN THE STREETS
(August 13, 2003)
MIDSUMMER NIGHTS' REVELRY
(July 22, 2003)
RITES OF SUMMER
(June 27, 2003)
(June 2, 2003)