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Bon Odori


When the topic of Matsuri comes up, the mind quickly jumps to Bon Odori, the festival dance performed by the masses every year at Matsuri. Hopefully this article teaches you something about Bon Odori, and gives you the courage to jump in with the dancing crowd! Bon Odori is a 600 year old folk-dance tradition that has adapted and grown into a large part of Matsuri celebrations. Bon Odori began from Buddhist folk traditions to welcome the dead. It was entertainment for the crowd to watch and was performed on a platform above the crowd. Though its origins were performative and spiritual, Bon Odori has changed over the 600 years. Nowadays, Bon Odori is performed by the crowd, as everyone is encouraged to dance together. There is often a raised platform called a yagura, from where the musicians play and the lead dancers dance. The crowd dances around the yagura in sync with the dancers up top.

Different regions of Japan have different dances and traditions they perform at Matsuri, such as the Soran-bushi from Hokkaido. The origins of these dances are often tied to the culture of the area. It is said that the net-pulling soran-bushi dance was first


Soran Bushi

performed by fishermen in Hokkaido. While many of the unique festival dances in Japan have interesting origins and meanings behind them, modern bon odori often symbolizes the summer and the festival season more than anything else.

Bon Odori is a very important part of the Matsuri culture, and I hope this article has taught you about their origins in Japan. These dances are often done in a circle, and everyone moves at the same time. If you are at a Matsuri and see a big crowd of people doing a bon odori, watch the moves as best you can and then join in on the fun!

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