Clap Along with Kochi’s Yosakoi Festival
Every August since 1954, the city of Kochi in southern Shikoku is filled with excitement as the Yosakoi Festival is on the way. As a modern twist of the popular Awa Odori dance festival, the four-day Yosakoi festival happens typically between the 9th and 12th of August. Although the festival name, Yosakoi, is literally translated as “come at night,” the festival runs all day.
Yosakoi features more than 20,000 costumed performers dancing along 15 stages in Kochi. One of the most popular spots to enjoy the festival is at Otesuji Street. Here the festivities get started from as early as 11 AM each day of the event. To last until nighttime I’m sure you can imagine the amount of energy needed!
One of the main accessories in the Yosakoi Festival is the use of naruko clappers. Originally used as a tool to scare away birds from fields, these wooden clappers have been repurposed specifically for this festival to make sounds that help the dancers keep in rhythm with one another.
This is one of the only festivals in Japan where you can guarantee that you’ll see this unique accessory added to bon odori type festivals. The original Yosakoi dance melody was written by Takemasa Eisaku. Today though, performances do not have a strict musical arrangement requirement, they still have to incorporate parts of this original melody somewhere in the dance.
The costumes used for this festival vary widely. Watch performers dance with naruko clappers dressed in brightly colored yukatas, spirited happi coats, and even cheery princess outfits. You’ll see it all here.
This event is so popular that other cities are now adopting this into their calendar of events. For example, the Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Festival held in June now also incorporates the folk dance of Hokkaido, the Soran Bushi, with the naruko clappers.
So if you are in Shikoku during summer, be sure to try to attend this amazing festival showing a unique aspect of Japanese culture. The Yosakoi Festival of Kochi is certainly a high energy festival that everyone can enjoy and participate in.
Kochi, Shikoku, Japan
[post by Beth]
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