“Hanagasa Matsuri” is one of four large summer festivals held August 5-7. The festival is held in Yamagata city, the prefectural capital of Yamagata. The city is approximately 3 hours from Tokyo by Bullet Train. The festival saw its inception in 1964, and now draws over 1 million visitors annually. Over 10,000 dancers weave through the streets wearing traditional “Hanagasa Daiko,” straw hats decorated with Safflowers and singing the harvest song, “Ha Yassho Makkasho,” which means, “oh come here and see, the heads of rice have matured, and bow low with fruit.” The dancers are accompanied by “Hanagasa -Taiko” Drum groups and decorated floral floats.
Over a 100 dancing groups take part in the festival. Some group’s dance to the traditional “Hanagasa Odori,” synchronizedance routine and some of the youth groups dance a modern routine. The kindergarten or elementary students groups just ‘enjoy’ dancing in the festival. All dancing groups are dressed in “kimono” fashion topped with “Hanagasa” flower hats. The performances are dynamic and exhilarating. The music is happy and joyful. The drumming song and chant, “Hanagasa Ondo” is an historical pond, irrigation construction work song.
Visitors come from all around the world to see and enjoy Japan’ s local, legendary dance and its modern evolution as displayed by youth groups. The joy of the festival can be felt by participating. Spectators and visitors are welcome to join the “Hanagasa Dance,” at the tail end of the parade. Dance instructors and free lessons are available daily during the festival.
Come and See or even join the groups to dance!
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