Yosakoi Yokosō!

I unearthed yet another Japanese cultural anomaly last weekend when a wrong turn on my way to visit a local Zen temple had me run into a parade of dancers, musicians and gargantuan flag bearers, my first encounter with Yosakoi. A style of dance unique to Japan, Yosakoi originated in Kōchi Prefacture In the 1950s as a modern day revival of the traditional Awa-Odori festival that takes place in neighbouring Tokushima. Both styles consist of a troupe of dancers, or ren 連, who dance some 100 metres down Japanese streets in order to welcome home their ancestors, who’s spirits return to their families during Japan’s “Obon” Festival of the Dead. The performance is inherently Buddhist in both it’s roots and execution, but Yokasoi is also a fusion of both New and Old Japan, as traditional dance steps and colourful yukata are move harmoniously to the sound pumping J-Pop and house music. The dancers, though supposedly “amateurs” undergo a rigorous yearlong training program for these events and every move is impeccably synchronised. There is no restriction on who can join a troupe and there were even a few gaijin (western expats) faces, peeping out from amongst the crowd. Within the performances, style was varied, cheerleaders, elderly flower-bearers, acrobats and children as young as six all span past over the course of just a few dances. Each troupe’s dance was endemic to it’s town of origin, sparking up rivalries between Prefactures and ever drawing focus to the three sincere faced judges quietly scribbling down afterthoughts at the finish line. We sadly however didn’t get to see who won as long before the end of the four-ish hour run time thoughts were becoming firmly fixed on dinner, and anyway I was never one to sit around watching votes get tallied. It looks like I’ll have to hit Tokushima next year for the original Awa-dori festival, 12th to the 15th of August, which features dancers numbering into the thousands and over 1.3 million tourist. Much more appealing than Strictly!












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