Japan's Vibrant Dance, Yosakoi - to bring cheer to the world
Guest author Sarah Nishina writes of her recent experience at a Yosakoi festival in Tokyo. What is Yosakoi? Read on!
As the first performers came on stage my heart was beating with excitement. The music got faster and the performers started to jump and swirl around the floor. I shed a little tear of emotion. It had been so long without feeling the rhythm and beat of a Japanese festival. Nearly all Japanese festivals were cancelled in 2020.
As a special event for this summer, The Premium Yosakoi Festival was held via live stream from Tokyo. The screen, streamed to audiences all over the world, was filled with eleven live performances from Tokyo, Hokkaido and Nagasaki, pre-recorded footage and memories from past performances, including the 1950's.
What is Yosakoi?
It is a free form style of Japanese dance which originated in Kochi, Shikoku in 1954 and is now danced in over 200 places in Japan and over 30 countries. Basically, there are three simple rules to create a Yosakai dance.
1. Hold a pair of naruko (wooden hand clappers) and flick your wrists to the beat to create a clapping sound.
2. Move forward as you dance.
3. Include a few phrases from the original Yosakoi Naruko Odori song.
The rest can be left to your creativity and imagination.
The chairman, Mr Akihiro Aoki, and his team of the Yosakai Festival Promotion Association created The Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo in the hope that "it will bring a little cheer and a smile to many people, in the spite of the current Covid-19 pandemic."
The Governor of Kochi prefecture, Mr Seiji Hamada hopes "that through our cheer, all the people who are watching "Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo" will be filled with energy and happiness, and that Yosakoi will develop even further in Japan and around the world."
The limited rebroadcast of The Premium Yosakoi Festival found here will fill your screen with bright colours and a striking fusion of dance styles. The endless variety of music will get you feeling like you are right in the middle of a hot summer festival in Japan. You will probably even start dancing yourself.
Top picks of the day.
My favourite performance was performed by the Zokkon Machida 98' group (at the 1:08:00 mark) This live performance was full of energy and skill featuring my favourite Japanese doll, the daruma.
Daruma is a symbol of hope - fall down seven times, stand up eight. A saying we can recite to ourselves every time we hear of another wave of infection. The dancers take the arena carrying two pieces of curtain on their backs to create an amazing full curtain of daruma as they twirl around changing to a curtain of naruko. One wrong move and the visual effect will be ruined. The team worked in perfect unison and I hear myself sigh with relief when they pull it off to perfection.
Another treat not to miss is the mesmerising special performance of the traditional Yosakoi dance and music. (at the 14:45mark) The performers are accompanied by live musicians playing traditional Japanese musical instruments known as the shamisen. Your mind and heart will be taken back to the old days. A calming interlude in the middle of the energetic performance.
Time for you to watch it now.
I now urge you to scroll back to the link to the Limited Rebroadcast of the show. Take time out to enjoy exciting swirling dances and vibrant music that will tickle your senses. While you sadly can't jump on a plane to Japan, you can feel the spirit and energy of a Japanese festival, where ever you are.