Tottori often goes by unnoticed as it is a comparatively quiet prefecture. However, if you plan for a summer getaway in Tottori, be sure not to miss the famous Shan-Shan Matsuri Festival. This is the time when you will find exceptional crowds and merriment everywhere along the streets of Tottori city.
Held annually in the month of August in conjunction with Bon Festival, the Shan-Shan Matsuri Festival welcomes residents of all walks of life to participate in a dancing parade. It consists of Japanese as well as international students from junior to tertiary schools, working young adults, and senior people who share a common passion, that is to perform the “umbrella dance” despite the melting temperatures of the summer heat.
On this festive day, all participants dress in yukata each holding a colorful, decorative umbrella ornamented with many tiny bells. During the dance, the umbrella rotates to form an artificial circular “rainbow” while the bells vibrate and chime to complement this colorful drawing.
In addition to the Shan Shan umbrella dance, you will also enjoy a series of stage performances held at Tottori station.
Last August, I participated in this event for the first time under the name of Tottori University. About two months before the festival, we began practice to familiarize ourselves with the steps while manipulating an umbrella and listening to the music.
As we were to dance non-stop for nearly 2 hours along the street, the constant rubbing between our palms and handle of the umbrella inevitably caused abrasion wounds. Therefore before the show, we covered our hands and toes with tape to form a protective layer.
In the past, it was a ritual ceremony where people danced to pray for rain during drought. In this modern era where water supply is manipulatable by means of technology, the descendants inheriting this tradition do it to commemorate the spirits and hardship of their ancestors.
So, mark your calendar for Shan Shan Festival in this August!