Written by Catrina Sugita
Date: 5th–7th August 2022
Location: Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture
Yamagata Hanagasa Festival 2022
Enjoy the Summer Festivities at Yamagata Hanagasa Festival with over 10 000 dancers!
Discover Yamagata Prefecture's unique culture through the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival, an annual event spanning across 3 days and featuring close to 15 000 dancers! The festival has grown to become a major event, and is considered one of the great summer festivals of North-East Japan. Millions of spectators from all over the country come to enjoy the groups of dancers waving hats intricately decorated with orange safflowers —the flower of Yamagata Prefecture Dressed in their own spectacular costumes, dancers move to the rythm of the Hanagasa Ondo, or "Flower Hat Folk Song", comprised of the beat of the taiko drums and the chorus of “Yassho makkasho” chanting. Alongside the dancers and music, admire the beautiful parade floats of dieities and company sponsors.
The Hanagasa Ondo Song
The Hangasa Ondo is a folk song representing Yamagata Prefecture. While its origins are still debated, the current version of the song is said to date back to the 1930's and features the shamisen, (three-stringed raditional Japanese lute), the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and the taiko (Japanese drums). The lyrics of this folk song introduce various places along the Yamagata River, Mogami River, each represented by a different type of dance.
The Hanagasa Odori Dance
Historically, 10 versions of Hanagasa Odori have existed throughout time. In 1963, all these dances were used to inspire a new and simplified choreography of Hanagasa Odori, that anyone could quickly learn to join in on the festvities. Designed to retain the traditional style of Japanese dance, this variation of the dance is called the "Traditional Hanagasa Dance - Kunpu Mogamigawa (Fragrant Breeze of the Mogami River)," commonly known as Onna Odori (or "dance of the women"). Later, in 1998, another traditional style of dance was created, known as the "Traditional Hanagasa Dance - Zao Gyoko (Zao Light of Dawn)," more popularly known by Otoko Odori ("dance of the men").
Finally, the 3rd most popular Hanagasa Odori today, is the one from Obanazawa City, the birth place of Hanagasa Odori. This unique form of Hanagasa Odori is known as the "Spinning Hat Dance" and features an embroided flower hat that is energetically obanzawa waved and spun around. Depending on the type of dance, the decorations on the hats vary in style and even in color.
Join in on the dance yourself wth the help of a Hanagasa fan and a dancing instructor, who will guide you in dancing to your heart out!
The Origins of Hanagasa Festival
The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is said to have taken off from the 1963 "Zao Summer Festival," a promotional event encouraging tourism in Yamagata Prefecture's Zao region. The grand finale of that festival was the the Hanagasa Ondo Parade (Flower Hat Folk Song Parade). From then on, it became a stand-alone event beloved by all, known as the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival.
The Festival's Programme
- 6:00PM: Opening address
- 6:10PM: Parade starts and Opening of the Festival with a Hanagasa Dance Circle in front of Yamagata City Office (feel free to join in!)
- 8:30PM: Audience can join the dancing for the final part of the parade
- 21:45PM: End of parade (When the sign reading 「飛び入りコーナー」(“Jump into the parade”) appears, now's your chance to join the parade and dance the Hangasa Odori!)