|Summer Festival in a Town that Marries
Tradition to a Modern Outlook
Every year during four days from 9 to 12 August, the Yosakoi
Matsuri summer festival is held in the city of Kochi in Shikoku. In the
local dialect "Yosakoi!" means "Come on over tonight!" In 1954, during
the severe recession which affected throughout the country, the festival
was proposed and promoted mainly on the initiative of the local Chamber
of Commerce as a means of dispelling the gloom and encouraging the local
people. Each of the participating groups orchestrates their own dance performance
at various places in the city's downtown commercial districts. The festival
currently features roughly 15,000 dancers in about 130 groups. The prefectural
governor and the mayor also join in the lines of dances and during the
four days of the festival the entire city is given over solely to the event.
The two basic rules state that the participating teams have to use Yosakoi Naruko Odori Uta, or the dancing song, which is based on "Yosakoi Bushi," the traditional local folk tunes and that all the dancers have to perform while holding clappers, which make a sound similar to castanets. Teams are free to wear whatever costumes they like and any style of dancing is allowed. Participants always come up with new ideas and every year each team displays great originality. Young people have begun supplementing the traditional ways of playing the music, and in recent years live performances by rock bands have become popular among young dancers. Spectators can enjoy a variety of colorful costumes and music that is presented not only in traditional arrangements, but also spiced with rock, samba, or reggae.
Photos: (Top) The Mayor joins a team of city hall workers; (middle) teams of young people dance in colorful costumes to contemporary rhythm. (Kochi Prefecture).
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