Written by Catrina Sugita
Date: 1st–4th August 2022
Location: Chuodoori Street, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture
Morioka Sansa Odori Festival 2022
The largest parade of drummers and dancers in the world!
What is Sansa Odori?
Sansa Odori Matsuri is not only one of the 5 Great Festivals of Tohoku, but it is also the largest drum parade in the world! This title was won back in 2014 through a strong desire for the reconstruction of Iwate Prefecture, which was greatly affected by The Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami.
The festival features a 1km-long parade of over 10 000 drummers and dancers performing down Morioka City's Chuodoori Street in perfect synchronisation. What's more, from the 5 "Miss Sansa Odori" dancers —chosen from the local population— in colorful kimono leading the parade, to the dynamic drumming and rhythmical flute-playing by the Sansa Taiko Drumb group —consisting of "Miss Taiko", "Miss Yokobue" and "Uttako-Musume"— bright young women are at the forefront of this parade. Following them are large Sansa dancing groups of men, women, and children of all ages.
In addition to the main parade, "Traditional Sansa Odori Special Performances," which are unique to the particular district they originated from and have been passed down since the creation of the city of Morioka, can be admired. Enjoy the variations both in terms of costume and dancing style of each district, along with the rich culture of Iwate Prefecture!
Finally, held at the seven sites along the parade route simultaneously, is the exciting wa-odori ("dancing-in-a-circle") dance. Join in on the dancing yourself when the dancing instructor gestures for you to part-take in the parade and shows you the ropes on how to dance Sansa Odori. Anyone can join regardless of their attire, so don't be shy and jump right in!
The Legend Behind Sansa Odori & Iwate Prefecture
Sansa Odori is said to originate form the Mitsuishi Legend.
Long ago in the Morioka castle town, an oni (or demon) named Rasetsu was terrorizing the local people. The townspeople being at a total loss as what to do, started to pray to the deity Mitsuishi to rid them of the demon. Mitsuishi-kami responded to their pleas for help by capturing the demon and making the demon pledge to never trouble the people again by leaving behind a handprint on the rocks located at Mitsuishi Shrine (which can be admired today!). The locals rejoiced at the banishing of the demon and danced around the Mitsuishi Rocks while shouting "Sansa, Sansa."
This legend not only explains the origins of Sansa Odori, but also the roots and meaning behind Iwate since "oni no tegata" translates to the "the demon's handprint on rocks," and Iwate literally means "rock hand."
Sansa Odori Parade: Every day 6:00PM–9:00PM
Wa-Odori: 8:30PM from groups in front of the Prefectural Government Bldg.
The Worlds Largest Drum Parade: 4th August (final day)