This year during Culture Day on February 15th, 2014, we featured Bon Odori (盆踊り). During the summer, it is hot in Japan, but it is also very exciting as various summer festivals take place. There is a special period called Obon (お盆) in the summer, where it is believed that ancestors come back home for a reunion. Therefore, everyone tries to go back to their hometown during the Obon period to visit their family graveyard and to worship. During that time, they dance together to celebrate their reunion. That dance is called Bon Odori (盆踊り).
On Culture Day this year at the school, we experienced some of the Bon Odori dancing. Awa Odori was one of them. The roots of this dance go back four hundred years.
Awa (阿波) is the old name for Tokushima (徳島); and Tokushima, my hometown, is famous for the Awa Odori. A lot of tourists come and visit Tokushima to enjoy and participate in Awa Odori from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15. The population of Tokushima-city is currently 260,000 but during these four days 1,300,000 people will visit there!
Awa Odori has become more and more famous, and spread not only to other parts of Japan, but also to many cities overseas including Montreal.
I was happy to be able to introduce Awa Odori to the students, parents, teachers and volunteers at TJLS on Culture Day. There is a phrase in the Awa Odori song that goes, ‘The dancers are fools, the watchers are fools, both are fools alike, so why not dance? (踊る阿呆に、見る阿呆、同じ阿呆なら、踊らにゃ損々)’ I was happy to see that almost all the watchers became dancers during this event.
The Urara Miubu-kai (うらら民舞会) members and myself also danced other famous Bon Odori, such as Tanko-bushi (炭坑節) from Fukuoka, Kyushu (福岡, 九州), and Tokyo-ondo (東京音頭) from Tokyo (東京) with everyone at the TJLS. We really enjoyed the enthusiastic participation.
At the end of the event, Tawaratsumi-uta (俵積み唄) from Akita, Tohoku (秋田, 東北) and Hokkai-bon-uta (北海盆唄) from Hokkaido (北海道) were also performed.
I would like to thank all the people who have made this year’s Culture Day successful and I hope we can dance Bon Odori together sometime in the future, such as during the Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) at the JCCC on July 12th, 2014.
Comments from students
“I’ve always been fascinated with traditional Japanese dances, and never would have thought I would get to see the dances in person, let alone try it for myself! I really enjoyed watching the energy and enthusiasm from the dancers. The dancing was a bit tricky, but it was fun and had me smiling the entire time!”
“I really enjoyed watching the event, I found it interesting, educational and very fun. I think its goes very well with the classroom sessions.”