My first Japanese festival!

(Originally written: August 18, 2013)

I went to my first festival today!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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More stalls on the streets of Ugo!

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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!

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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!

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One of the beautiful Bon Odori dancers.

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I. love. their. HANDS!

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

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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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