My first Japanese festival!

(Originally written: August 18, 2013)

I went to my first festival today!


Nishimonai Bon Odori Festival entrance.

The Nishimonai Bon Odori festival takes place in Ugo, Akita. Because it’s an hour away by car, B (who has a car) drove C, T, M, and I to the festival (thanks again, B!). Getting there was a bit of an adventure – we took a few different roads that led us to a – surprise! – mountain road filled with narrow roads and hairpin turns. Wow. A little scary, but we did get a good view!


Overlooking Ugo!

We finally got to Ugo around 4:30pm. We walked around for a while, looking at the different stalls. I even bought two little sweets to eat!


One of the stalls on the side of the road.

B and I stopped at one of the stalls, and the ladies there started to talk to us in Japanese. Next thing, we turn around and – ta-da! – another JET ALT! By this time, the sun was starting to set, so D joined our group and we wandered around a few more stalls. A very energetic lady came up to us at one and, in very energetic Japanese, told us to get a picture with a Bon Odori dancer mannequin. Not one to turn down a photo opportunity, I said yes!


More stalls on the streets of Ugo!


The traditional kimono and hat/mask of the Nishimonai Bon Odori.

This entire time, people were playing taiko drums and flutes and singing what I assume was a folk song. Very cool!


The live musicians!

The dancing started at 7:30pm, just as the sun set. Hundreds of people danced in unison in single file, going down one side of the street and looping around in a U shape to go up the other side. The dance itself was so beautiful – their hands are incredible! It was so calming to watch. I absolutely loved it!


One of the beautiful Bon Odori dancers.


I. love. their. HANDS!

Have I mentioned that I really want to learn traditional Japanese dance?


Looking up the street! The single file of Bon Odori dancers goes down one side and up the other… Absolutely amazing.

We left somewhat early because it was a long drive back to Yurihonjo. Thankfully, we found another road that wasn’t a perilous mountain path – haha!

Seriously, what a great first festival in Japan! I can’t wait for the Oomagari fireworks next week. :)


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