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Travel Reports by Rabbityama view profile of Rabbityama

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August 17, 2017 - Obon Festivals and Events

Over the Obon holiday, I decided to plan a trip around Shikoku's two big summer festivals; Kochi's Yosakoi Festival and Tokushima's Awa Odori. The Yosakoi Festival lasts 4 days from August 9-12 while the Awa Odori starts on August 12 and lasts until the 15th, so I started in Kochi. The Yosakoi Festival requires the use of naruko (a type of clapper instrument) and the music must contain at least some parts of the Yosakoi Bushi song, a song about seeing a monk buying a hairpin by Harimayabashi Bridge in Tosa (a forbidden love song).

The costumes and dances vary widely. Some more traditional, others very modern or featuring costumes inspired by other cultures (I saw a group dance with costumes reminiscent of belly-dancers, for example). There are a variety of dancing venues from JR Kochi station to the shopping arcades, a stage, the foot of Kochi Castle, etc. Visiting each venue would take some time. All of the dancing areas that I saw were free and open, so you could find a spot and watch as long or as little as you wanted and then go to another spot. The dances here are very upbeat and fun, so it's a very exciting festival. I was glad to finally be able to see it for myself!

Yosakoi Festival Dancers
Dancers with the festival's signature naruko clappers
Can't visit Kochi without eating Katsuo no Tataki

I did other things around Kochi, as well, but the focus here is on the August festivals and events, so the next event I went to was up in Okayama, the Genso Teien (Fantasy Garden) event at Korakuen Garden and the accompanying Okayama Castle Light-up. The event lasts the entire month of August. I have been there before, but they change it every year, so it's never the same but always beautiful. It's the best garden light-up event that I've seen. This year, bamboo lantern creations are among the special features in the garden. The small crane lights hanging in one of the tea houses was a great surprise that seemed to leave quite an impression on everyone. It was an excellent touch.

At the castle, they laid candles out on the grounds just in front of the keep to form the image of two cranes. It was beautiful from the ground level however, for those who wanted to how it really looked from above, the castle's hours were extended to coincide with the event, so you could pay to go up and view the candles from above.

Okayama Castle Light-Up
View of the Candle Cranes from the castle
Korakuen Garden's Fantasy Garden (Genso Teien)
Crane lanterns in one of the garden's tea houses

At this point, it was August 13th, so time for the Awa Odori. Unlike the Yosakoi Festival, the Awa Odori takes places strictly at night with few events in the daytime, so during the day I visited Ritsurin Garden and the Hiketa Historic District in Higashikagawa before arriving in the late afternoon at Tokushima Station. The Awa Odori has bleachers set up at designated areas where you can pay to watch along with a couple areas where viewers can watch for free. I actually came to this festival last year, but it rained, which put a bit of a damper on the experience (literally), so I was excited to come back. This year I bought a ticket to the Konyamachi Enbujo area (the furthest from the station). Although I did have to rush a little to get back to the station since my hotel was not in Tokushima City, I was glad I chose this area.

The Awa Odori is an established dance, unlike the Yosakoi, but by no means is it boring. There is some room for unique choreography and each group has its own costumes that are fun to see. It's always exciting to see the yukata-clad women wearing the iconic bent hats. The most iconic male costumes feature twisted cloth crossing their faces below the nose. These male dancers are less common, so I was especially happy to see a few groups of them during my viewing period. They also disperse amateur teams among professional teams, so it's fun for the teams and doesn't disappoint the viewers. I was able to enjoy the festival much more this year so I'm glad I came back!

Dancers at the Awa Odori
Male and female dancers

I was very satisfied with the Shikoku festivals and the Korakuen Garden light-up event, but there was another festival that I had been thinking about as well. I hesitated to go because it was located far from these Western festivals, but my curiosity got the best of me and I ended up on a night bus bound for Yokohama. What festival was it? The Pikachu Outbreak Festival! Although I missed the main festival day with the large parade, it was fun seeing the Pokemon and Pikachu faces everywhere. So many people gathered to play Pokemon Go and enjoy the events. It was a lot of fun and a good way to spend a rainy day. I even got to see Pikachu shimmying and dancing the samba. It was quite a funny site. It was a nice ending to my festival and event holiday!

Giant Pikachu at Pikachu Outbreak
Dancing Pikachus!

Kochi: /e/e5600.html
Okayama: /e/e5700.html
Awa Odori: /e/e7802.html
Yokohama: /e/e2156.html

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List of Posts:
2017/08/17 - Obon Festivals and Events
2016/10/13 - Biwako Biennale
2013/10/20 - Setouchi Triennale 2013 Autumn Session
2013/09/18 - Setouchi Triennale 2013 Summer Session (Part 2)
2013/09/18 - Setouchi Triennale 2013 Summer Session (Part 1)
2013/01/03 - New Years in Okayama