The Hachinohe Enburi festival signals the arrival of spring in Japan and is held in the city of Hachinohe, Aomori. The festival occurs annually for 3 days, from February 17-20. Also, enburi is believed to have originated from the Japanese word “eburi” which is a farm tool that dancers carried in the old days during their performances. The dance festival is held to dance and pray for an abundant harvest for the upcoming year.
The event starts with a visit to the Shinra Jinja Shinto shrine and is then followed by a parade. Over 30 groups of people participate in the event including children. Many of them wear colorful costumes and every group consists of 10-30 members; with each group having a dancer (tayu), flute players, drummers and bell-sounders. The dancers swing their eboshi-hats which have been decorated and shaped into a horse’s head and the prologue of the dance is narrated by the leader of the tayu called “tokuro.”
There are two types of dances, naga enburi and dosai enburi, which depict the farm life of the people. Naga enburi has a slow tempo while the dosai enburi is faster. There are some traditional performances in-between the dances such celebratory dances by children called enko-enko and ebisu mai which are very charming and great to watch!
There are various kinds of enburi dances for different situations. One of these is the “gozen enburi” which used to be performed in the palace of the feudal lord. Another is “kagaribi enburi” which is performed with a blazing bonfire at night. You can see these performances at the Hachinohe Public Hall. This is just a 15-minute walk from Hon-Hachinohe Station which is on the JR Hachinohe Line.
Enburi is considered to be an intangible folk cultural asset in Japan and marks the inhabitants great longing for spring’s arrival. There are several places for you to see the dance in Hachinohe, although the schedule may change if the weather is not very good. Nonetheless, don’t forget to mark your calendars next year to enjoy the cultural dance of the northern district.