It’s summer in Japan when the Yosakoi festivals begin.
A modern incarnation of traditional Awa Odori dancing that once celebrated the harvests, Yosakoi mixes fun, fling your body about choreography, with uplifting, traditional-flavoured, heavy on the taiko-drum dance beats in a show that leaves the audience’s heart-pumping.
The music begins, sometimes quietly, at a low tempo that suddenly ramps up a gear into a frenzy, while a micro-phone wielding team members sing, chant and whoop in time with the music. Sometimes the music is at top speed right from the start.
If you want to get a feel for Yosakoi while looking at my photos, first go to this link and play the first song. Enjoy ^^
Yosakoi is immensely popular in Japan. Dancers range from school students to the middle aged, and well represented with both men and women. Even local festivals typically attract a multitude of competing teams, and a big crowd come to watch them. The Awa Odori matsuri (festival), held from the 12th to the 15th of August in Tokushima attracts over a million visitors every year.
For all its contemporary street-party feel, Yosakoi still maintains a strong connection with the past: bright costumes are none-the-less still yukata, fans and wooden clappers feature prominently, and then there are the flags. Oh the flags.
For me, the sight of these massive flags cutting through the air behind a stage full of dances is the most stirring aspect of Yosakoi. You have to give these guys a lot of credit too. It can’t be the easiest job swinging a pole topped with heavy cloth and making it look good. The guy below seems to be having a great time though.
For those living in Japan, who want to be more than just spectators to the culture, Yosakoi groups are a fun way to meet people, make some memories and get some essential exercise. My next post I will introduce an American Yosakoi member and get some more insights from his experience in Ibaraki, Japan.