Festivals, known as matsuri in Japanese, have been a part of Japan’s tradition and culture since ancient times. These matsuri are important for people living in local areas, and the traditions of these festivals have been passed down through generations to the present day. In Japan, festivals in each region are conducted according to time honored customs and rules that often dictate many things including: the music, costumes, and style of dancing. However, about 60 years ago in Kochi Prefecture, a different type of festival known as Yosakoi Matsuri was introduced. This festival allows people of all ages the freedom to go wild with excitement as they celebrate in a freer and more upbeat manner in contrast to traditional matsuri celebrations.

The first Yosakoi festival was held in 1954 in Kochi during the second weekend in August over a period of four days and was originally created with the intent to eliminate post-war economic depression and to pray for the health and prosperity of its citizens. Yosakoi is a unique style of highly energetic dance, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music. The creation of the official Yosakoi Naruko Dance is based on a folk song called ‘Yosakoi Bushi,’ which is accompanied to the upbeat tempo of the chant ‘Yochoreyo’ ‘Yochoreyo.’ Dancers also carry a pair of naruko, a castanet-type instrument that makes a clapping sound. Naruko were originally used by local people to scare sparrows away from their fields.

The number of participants in the Yosakoi festival has been increasing yearly and in 2019, about 20,000 dancers participated in the event. The choreographed dances are often performed by large teams of up to 100 men and women of all ages but teams can be as small as a dozen participants.  The Yosakoi dance has taken in all sorts of new ideas, and it’s quite typical for dancers to don bright and showy hairdos and costumes. Some other creative additions to the dance include live rock band performances, samba or rock melodies and choreography, or themes based on popular movies.

 The rules of the Kochi Yosakoi competition are as follows:

  • Participants must use the Naruko clappers while moving forward as they dance.
  • Any musical arrangement is acceptable, but the music must contain at least some part of Takemasa’s original “Yosakoi Naruko Dancing” song.
  • Teams are limited to 150 participants.

Kochi locals welcome foreign participants and visitors are made welcome by being able to join a special dance group after a one-hour practice session. It costs 3,000yen per person to join a group, which includes a set of Naruko clappers and a Happi Coat. The dates to set aside are August 10th & 11th every year.

There are also Yosakoi events held in other parts of Japan and in other countries as well. In fact, on July 4th, the Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo event was held and lived streamed. You can check out all the fun here until September 5th.  For further information about Yosakoi, look no further than the official Yosakoi website.

Who is up for Yosakoi 2022?

Kochi has so much to offer and this short video is a great introduction to the prefecture.

Contact Japan Holidays today to plan your visit to Kochi.