Hanatori Odori is a kind of sword dance handed down in Kochi Prefecture since the Middle Ages. It is a gallant dance performed to pray for good health. It is said that the dance originates in an episode in the Warring States period (1493-1573).
Once there was an impregnable castle at the top of a mountain. When a troop of warriors made an attack on the castle, the troop leader called villagers together and performed a dance with them by wielding his sword. To see their dancing, the soldiers in the castle relaxed their guard and allowed the enemy to invade into the castle.
In Tokano in Sakawa Town in Kochi Prefecture, the Hanatori Odori dances are dedicated to Shirokura Shrine and Mitsugi Shrine in early November. When the real-size straw horse is set in the shrine precinct in the morning, two Tengu with long sticks in their hands appear. Then about twelve dancers wearing flower hats and blue costumes march into the precinct through the Torii gate, walking to the rhythm of Japanese drums, who are followed by the cheerful parade of the children’s Mikoshi and Ohayashi music band.
The dancers start dancing in a circle, dynamically wielding their swords, while two Tengu walk close to the spectators and play a joke on them. Dance is continued for about 1 hour and ended with the rice throwing ritual.
Uesugu Festival is held annually in the castle town of Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. This large-scale spring festival is sponsored by Uesugi Shrine, which enshrines the founder of the Uesugi clan, Kenshin Uesugi, and Matsugasaki Shrine, which enshrines the 2nd generation Kagekatsu Uesugi and 10th generation Youzan Uesugi.
Each year from April 29 to May 3, Matsugasaki Park, the site of the festival, is lined with stalls and overflows with visitors. Wives from every household work diligently yet cheerfully in the kitchen preparing a feast, gathering aralia nuts and cooking sea bream according to traditional custom. A group of dancers numbering no less than one thousand dressed in an array of colorful costumes dance the Hanagasa-odori across the city.
On the final day the famous Battle of Kawanakajima is reenacted with more than 700 men and horses participating in the fight between the Uesugi and Takeda armies, acting as if it is a real battle.
Sendai Tanabata Festival is one of Tohoku's four major festivals, which include Aomori Nebuta, Akita Kanto and Amagata Hanagasa festivals.
Sendai Tanabata Festival is not a traditional local festival because it has taken place in various places since the Edo period. It is said that it the festival was beloved by the clan patriarch, Date Masamune.
Following the adoption of the Western calendar in the Meiji period, the festival diminished year by year. But in 1927, volunteer merchants revived it to shake off the economic recession at that time. It is said that children who saw the spectacle, applauded for a long time after it. Sendai Tanabata Festival deteriorated during the war in the early 20th century and did not take its present shape until after 1926.
Ohara-Matsuri Festival held in Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Pref. is a citizens’ festival. It was first held in commemoration of 60-year anniversary of municipalization in 1949, when the momentum for post-war restoration was enhanced among the citizens. The name Ohara-Matsuri comes from “Ohara-bushi,” which is the representative folk ballad of Kagoshima Pref. About 20,000 dancers with Yukata and Hanagasa (flower hat) on are dancing around the city to the rhythms of “Ohara-bushi” and “Hanya-bushi.” The roadsides are filled with spectators from all over the country. This is the largest festival in Southern Kyushu Region today. During the first several years, together with Ohara-bushi dancing, the parade of fancily dressed-up automobiles was the highlight event, but since 1961, the dancing parade has become the main event. Ohara-Matsuri Festival can be enjoyed by both participants and spectators. The whole town is full of feverish excitement during this wonderful civil festival.
The Flower-Hat Festival (Hanagasa Matsuri), which takes place in Yamagata Prefecture, is known as one of the four largest events to take place in the Tohoku area. The festival takes place annually in August.
The cry of the dancers in the parade, 'Yassho! Makkasho!', and the spirited beat of the hanagasa-daiko drums can be heard during the festival. It is one of Yamagata prefecture's symbolic summer events and draws over a million visitors.
For a week from August 5th, dancers wear hanagasa hats with artificial safflowers on them (the safflower being Yamagata's prefectural flower), and dance along the main streets (for about 1.2km) of Yamagata city.
The Hanagasa Ondo song, which is sung as 'sorota sorotayo' etc., derives from the 'dotsuki' song, which was sung in the Meiji and Taisho periods in the Murayama area. The basic style of dance is 'typical Japanese dance', however, nowadays the advent of dances for men has changed the form of the 'buyo'. Moreover, elements from Westerns dance forms are added, and the new dance forms are slightly different. For Japanese who love festivals, it is an event that they should definitely join.