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Owara Kaze no Bon Toyama

Owara Kaze no Bon おわら風の盆 (Toyama)


Kaze no Bon is a Japanese celebration held each year from September 1 to 3 in Yatsuo, Toyama, Japan. Kaze-no-Bon actually translates to "Bon Dance of the Wind." This celebration, having a history of approximately 300 years, is as of late getting to be a popular visitor attraction to the otherwise underpopulated mountain region.

The village of Yatsuo (21,810 inhabitants in 2005) stretches three kilometres along the Ida River between two mountains. It is part of the municipality of Toyama, in the prefecture of the same name. The festival is held during the first three nights of September, in the steep cobbled streets of the town centre, lit for the occasion by paper lanterns. Young men and women, all unmarried, move slowly in long parallel lines, dancing to a melody. Musicians, usually older, close the march. Each troupe represents one of the eleven districts of the district. The most traditional of the dances is the Kyu odori; the other is the Shin odori, introduced in 1920: in this one, the men and women's steps differ, those of the former evoking the work of the fields.

The female dancers are dressed in matching yukata (浴衣, cotton kimonos) and flat straw hats called amigasa (編み笠), tilted to cover their faces. Their companions wear a short jackets and a similar hat. At the back of the procession, a woman intones Ecchu Owara Bushi, a traditional village song, accompanied by rare instruments such as the kokyū (胡 弓, a fiddle), traditional shamisen (三味 線, a three-stringed lute) and drums. This music is one of the 100 sounds of Japan's national heritage (日本の音風景100選) selected in 1996 by the Ministry of Environment.

In addition to these parades, the groups follow demonstrations on a few platforms spread around the village. Private performances are given in restaurants or some houses. In the middle of the night, once the tourists have left, the town's population joins the dancers in costume to continue the dance, sometimes until the early hours. For a long time, a local village festival, the show has been attracting visitors from all over the archipelago (up to 200,0002), seduced by the mystery and nostalgia of the songs and dances.



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