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Gujo Odori (郡上踊り) festival is the longest Bon odori festival in Gifu prefecture which began in the Edo period and is lasting for over 400 years. This festival is one of the three most important traditional Bon dance festivals in Japan. Other two are Tokushima Awa Odori in Tokushima prefecture and Nakashi Odori during Kuroishi Yosare festival in Aomori prefecture. Originally, the concept of this event implies that any person can join the dance. Everybody can dance regardless of their social status. So, according to its historical background, this festival is not only for the residents but also for tourists from foreign countries and other prefectures in Japan.
The image courtesy of tsuda
This festival lasts not only over a day or a weekend like most of the Japanese festivals. It starts from 8:00 am and finishes at 10:30 pm for the first 29 days. And for the last 4 days, people dance all night until 4:00 am. Do you think that people really do not dance until morning? No, when it becomes late, the number of people even increases!
The Bon odori possesses an image of an event for the elderly, but you will notice many young people taking part in this dance festival. Many of the participants think that Gujo Odori is such an attractive event that they return at the time of festival even they live in different areas. Even people do not know each other, but when the festival starts, hundreds of people dance altogether. The image courtesy of JialiangGao
There are 10 types of music including standard, up-tempo, more chilling, and so on. The major characteristic of this festival is that there is a variety of dance music types compared to other Bon odori festivals. The most common music is called ‘Kawasaki’ which is a typical style of Bon odori music, and ‘Haru Koma’ is up-tempo. One more music style is ‘Matsusaka’ which you can hear only one time a day, so do not miss it! Both the rhythm and the choreographies are different, which is the reason why people can dance all night. You will be overwhelmed with the feeling of unity at this festival for sure. Anyone will enjoy dancing even if you do not know how to dance. However, I suggest you check the moves in advance as it will be more fun!
Also, if you have time you can take lessons before the festival. There are a lot of lessons in many different places, but I recommend you make a reservation in advance before you come.
At the festival, you can wear any clothes like jeans or T-shirts, but you will feel Japanese culture even more if you wear yukata and dance in it. In Japan, we have special wooden shoes for yukata called ‘geta’. It can make a really nice sound, but you may get tired of wearing it. If so, there is a river in Gujo. When you feel tired, please put your feet into the river and you will feel better for sure!
Around 10 pm, there is a dance audition each night. The tourists are given a theme to dance and the best dancer gets a certificate of Gujo Odori dancer. It is a very honorable thing and you cannot buy it, so everyone tries hard to get it!
The image courtesy of 丸山徹
Dates: July 13th – September 7th, 2019. Usually takes place from mid-July until the first weekend in September every year.
Places: Locations for each day change, the dancing takes place near certain temples and shrines please check it on the official website.
Official Website: http://www.gujohachiman.com/kanko/odori_schedule_e.html
A bus or a car is convenient to come from Nagoya. The location may change every day and it is better to check the daily schedule at the official website.
All the venues are close to Gujo-Hachiman station on Nagaragawa Tetsudo line. Note that the trains on this line do not run often, so plan your trip in advance.
If you come to Gifu in the summer, visit Gujo and join this festival for all night dancing, eating, drinking and making friends. Taking part in such an occasion will definitely show you the hospitality that residents are eager to share and broaden your mind in terms of traditional Japanese culture.
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Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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