What is the Yosakoi Festival?

The Yosakoi Festival is a summer festival held August 9 to August 12 in Kochi City, one of the largest cities on the island of Shikoku. During this festival 18,000 dancers with naruko clappers travel around the city, performing dances full of energy, cheer, and color. Participants are free to choose their own costumes and choreograph their own original dances, lending the Yosakoi Festival a unique atmosphere that forms part of its appeal.

Yosakoi Festival began in 1954 as a civil festival held to help revive the main shopping arcade in Kochi City. The free and energetic dances captivated the hearts of many people and have since spread to many parts of Japan. These dances have also been performed outside of Japan to showcase the appeal of this festival to countries around the world.

Introduction to the Yosakoi Festival

The Yosakoi Festival has three basic rules:
- A team can have no more than 150 dancers.
- All dancers must have narukos and proceed forward.
- Songs can be freely arranged, but the Yosakoi-bushi (*1) must be one of the songs included.
Participants are free to select their own costumes and choreograph their own dances, so long as they observe the above rules.

*1: The Yosakoi-bushi is a traditional folk song of Kochi prefecture.

The various teams of dancers sport a wide variety of costumes. While some participants wear traditional yukatas (casual summer kimonos) with woven straw hats, there are also costumes steeped in elegance, as well as costumes that aim to be more sportive or draw attention to the beauty of the dancers. The flood of colors transforms summertime Kochi into a city awash with energy and brilliance.

People that hear the music drifting through the air may be left thinking there is no set form to the different arrangements. However, it is important to remember that the traditional “Yosakoi-bushi” must be included in all arrangements. Listen carefully and you will be sure to hear that beloved melody coming through.

A “jikata-sha” is a decorated truck that leads each team of dancers. These trucks fulfill a number of different roles, such as serving as landmarks for the dancers, stages for music, and a means of self-promotion for each team.

The naruko was originally a farming implement. It was used to create clicking sounds intended to chase away birds trying to eat the crops. Festival participants now hold a naruko in each hand when they perform the Yosakoi Naruko Dance. Naruko are traditionally painted in vermillion with black and yellow added for effect, but teams can arrange the designs as they like.

Copyright © 2011 Kochi Visitors & Convention Association All rights reserved. Japan.

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