“Bon Odori” brings a sense of community.
During he middle of the summer there is a period called Obon and people take days off to go back to their hometown and celebrate the dead.
(You can learn more about the other Obon traditions in our article: 7 Japanese traditions for “Obon”, honoring the spirits of the ancestors)
During this season, “Bon Odori”dance festival can be seen everywhere in Japan. It was originally an event to pray to the souls of people who passed away, but now it’s more of like a summer festival held by a city council or town community so that people can gather and communicate. I used to go there with wearing my yukata. I remember that my parents bought me some shaved ice and cotton candy.
Everybody can join in “Bon-odori”.
There’s a wide variety bon-odori songs, from traditional songs to anime songs. When I was a kid, “Doraemon-ondo” was popular. The choreography of the dance is decided according to each song. If you come across this kind of small neighborhood festival, do not hesitate to jump in. Anyone can join the dance! Even if you don’t know how to dance, just mimic the people dancing, and you can join in! People will be very happy to welcome you in the circle and share a piece of Japanese culture with you.
The largest Bon-odori
The three following festival are extremely famous throughout Japan.
■Nishimonai Bon Dance
The contrast between the beauty of the dance, which is beautiful all the way to the fingertips, and the wild music is what gives this dance its elegant and magical atmosphere. In Nishimonai, Ugo-machi, Ogachi-gun, Akita, the dance is held along 300 meters of the Nishimonai main street every year from August 16th to the 18th.
■Gujo Hachiman Bon Dance
The Gujo Bon Dance is held on about 30 nights over the course of 2 months in the summer. In particular, there is always good turnout on the 4 nights of August 13th to the 16th, when people dance through the night and into the morning. The dancers are close to the spectators, and anyone can easily join. There are 10 types of Bon Dance.
Tokushima prefecture is the birthplace of this Bon Dance. Recently Awa Dance festivals have been held across the country, but among them the Tokushima Awa Dance is the largest and most famous. It is held from August 12th to the 15th. In the Awa Dance, there is a men’s dance and a women’s dance. The men’s dance is heroic and occasionally comical, while the women’s dance is beautiful and elegant.
Bon Dance festivals are held across the country, so if you have the opportunity to visit Japan in mid August, please try to participate in a Bon Dance festival. Dancing together with local people will surely be a fun experience.