Yosakoi-Soran Festival

I love crowds. I love the feeling of being caught up in the moment and surrounded by sounds, sights and  the scent of cooking food. Luckily there was an opportunity to enjoy all three at the recent Yosakoi-Soran Festival held in Sapporo City. People from all over the world were at the festival featuring yosakoi, a really hyper style of dance that includes flags, swords, drums, naruko (wooden clappers) and brightly colored costumes. It was amazing to see teams, not just from Hokkaido, or even from Japan, but from other  parts of the world. Teams performed at a lot of different locations in the city. A friend and I watched the dance from Odori Park, where a parade was happening. For a fee we could have sat in one of the bleachers for a good view, but instead we walked along the sidewalks craning our necks for the bets view possible!

The teams represented different cities, schools, universities and even companies. The age range was all the way from children to seniors, and teams had as many as 40 people or as few as 20. Even with all the commotion, everything still felt really orderly and polite, and at the end of each team’s performance, the dancers bowed to the audience and gave a gutsy “Arigatou gozaimasu!” thanking us for standing around and basically taking pictures or waving to our friends who might have been dancing. Everyone is really courteous and polite.

I went to the festival on Saturday and Sunday, but the entire event lasted several days, amazingly. Teams that weren’t performing, hastily crammed food into their mouths while taking shelter from the rain. Their snack of choice was onigiri, sticky rice filled with meat and/or vegetables. Food stands featured everything from Japanese cuisine and frozen fruit desserts, to hot dogs on sticks and French fries). I’m always a little self-conscious as a foreigner in Japan, but after walking by a woman holding a drink and standing at a table with some other Japanese, I decided to just pick a spot and do the same. With food in hand, it felt like I quickly blended in…!

Yosakoi started in Japan in the ’50s which, given Japan’s long history, makes it relatively recent. It’s held in cities all over Japan and is known internationally. Some colleges in the U.S. even have teams. There are also teams in Canada and Europe.

Here’s to awaiting next year’s festival!

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