Yosakoi-Soran Festival in Japan

May 14th, 2009 | By JoshFields | Category: Festivals

One thing Japan is well known for is its festivals. If you haven’t experienced participating in a Japanese festival, you’re missing out in a fantastic opportunity to truly immerse yourself in Japanese Culture. They are held for many different reasons. From Hokkaido all the way to Kyushu and Okinawa. They celebrate new harvests, or the return of one’s ancestors from the afterlife and everything in between. One common element to almost all of these festivals is that they are hundreds of years old.

Yosakoi Soran Festival Daigo Japan

Of course there are always exceptions. One type of festival, held all across the country is known as Yosakoi-Soran. It’s unique for many reasons, chiefly that it was invented only about 17 years ago.  Yosakoi itself was only started after World War II, as a way to encourage economic growth. The word actually means “come”-Yo “at”-sa ”night”-koi. At first people mostly danced Bon-Odori, from the traditional Bon period in summer. Since then it has morphed to include several, more dynamic styles of music and dance steps. In 1991 a student from Hokkaido was visiting Kochi prefecture on the island of Shikoku and experienced the Yosakoi festival there.

The next year about 1000 students got together and, by incorporating the rhythmic sounds of Hokkaido’s, fishing based, traditional soran bushi music with the dynamic dance of Yosakoi, Yosakoi-Soran was born. The festival in Sapporo has grown to be the largest in Japan, hosting over 300 teams with, more than 50,000 dancers, and 1 million visitors.

Now, Yosakoi-Soran festivals are held all over Japan, throughout the year. They vary in size from small villages hosting a few teams of dancers in conjunction with another annual festival, to large cities like Sendai, which hosts the Michinoku Yosakoi Festival, and is the third largest festival in Japan. Many of the festivals have competitions, which actually require teams to include the use of tradtional Yosakoi naruko clappers, and also include Soran music in their routines. Experiencing a Yosakoi-Soran festival is a great way to see one of the most simple things that Japanese people do so well…enjoy life! You can participate too, by joining the sou-odori numbers, which usually occur throughout the day or at the end of each days dancing.

The Hitachinokuni Yosakoi Festival in Daigo (located in Ibaraki prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan), is held the third weekend in May every year. This year the 6th annual staging is this weekend May 16-17 and is expected to have as many as 80 teams and hundreds of dancers.  There are also plenty of great local places to eat and grab a nice soak in an onsen.

Access:

By JR- Take the Joban Line to Mito, changing  to the Suigun Line, to Hitachi Daigo. (Approximately 4 hours from Tokyo)

By Highway bus from Tokyo Station, Yaesu Guchi to Daigo Jidosha Gakko Mae. The highway buses are limited, so your best bet is train or driving.

By Car- National Hwy 6 or Joban Expy to Mito. Take National Hwy 118, and follow signs in English to Daigo.

The Hitachinokuni Yosakoi Festival website is in Japanese, but this map of Hitachi Daigo will help you find the venue. A free shuttle is available between venues on during the main event on Sunday.

There are also many other Yosakoi-Soran festivals all over Japan – why not attend one and jump into neo-Japanese culture. It’s sure to be a great time!

This post was written by Josh Fields who is living his dream in rural Japan.  Read more about Josh and adventures on his blog 者守(Josh) in Japan or follow Josh on Twitter.

Image Credit:  Josh Fields, used with permission

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