Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is considered to be one of Tohoku’s major festivals. It primarily centers on the “hanagasa,” which is a hat decorated with artificial flowers worn by adults and children as they parade through the streets of Yamagata City. The very first festival was held in 1964 which makes it relatively new. Every year, 100 groups participate, making for a total of more than 10,000 dancers from August 5-7.
Most of the festival is dedicated to its dance called “Hanagasa Odori.” This dance originated in Obanazawa City of Yamagata Prefecture where people (workers) joined an impromptu dance with a hat. The dance is paired with music which was sung by agricultural workers in the Taisho Era. Later on, various Hanagasa dances emerged. At first, the focus was on the perfect order of the dances which were very much synchronized until it became very creative in the later years. Examples of the creative versions of the dance include the spinning of the flower hats.
The Hanagasa Odori Grand Parade falls on the last day of the festival which follows the road from Tokomachi Corner to the front of Bunshokan Hall. Dancers are expected to wear the same costume for each group with hanagasa hats. The parade is led by gorgeously decorated floats with people shouting “Yassho! Makkasho!” What makes it lively is the beat of the hanagasa-daiko drums.
You can actually discover the festival’s true joy upon participating in the event. Spectators are always welcome to join the “Hanagasa Circle Dance” located in front of the city hall or at the tail of the parade. There are dance teachers available for participants to follow.
Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri is said to attract millions of spectators yearly due to its beautiful parade. Why not join the crowd if you visit the Japan this coming summer?