Shimonoseki Bakan Festival – Powerful Heike Dance Performance




Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation


Shimonoseki is located at the southwestern tip of the main island of Japan. Evidently, it has geographic advantages for hundreds of years and has witnessed so many important events in Japan’s history.
There are two things in this festival you must not miss. The first one is “Heike Odori Dance” with more than 4,000 dancers participating. And the second one is the re-enactment of Joseon (Korean) missions to Japan.

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

About Shimonoseki Bakan Festival

800 years ago, the great “Genji” and “Heike” clans fought a decisive battle at “Dannoura” in Shimonoseki City which was commonly known as Bakan prior to 1902. The victory for the Genji clan brought the Genpei War and shortly afterward, a new shogunate was established in Kamakura. This festival derived from an act of holding a memorial service for the defeated Heike warriors by dancing “Heike Odori.”


In fact, this festival started from 1974 in order to encourage the citizen by Junior Chamber in Shimonoseki. Around that time the Japanese economy reached the end of golden-age of rapid economic growth. Nowadays, thanks to steadily increasing the popularity of the “Heike Odori”, the number of visitors has increased up to 400,000.

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

Things to Do and See in Shimonoseki Bakan Festival

1. Heike Odori, performed with the jaunty musical accompaniment known as ohayashi

The most exciting part of the festival is to see dance performances and feel the music.
During the festival people dressed in traditional festival wear – “happi” and dance on the streets with traditional music – “Heike Ondo”, which is basically a narrative of the battle at “Dannoura”. “Heike Ondo” has a quick, upbeat tempo, and it is always performed with particular “taiko” (Japanese drum) ensembles including two taiko drums and “taru” (sake barrel) each. Also, “Heike Ondo” is accompanied by “shamisen” ( three-stringed instrument). The song is performed by the main singer accompanied by a group of singers who know when to call out the “kakegoe” (emphatic shouts).


Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

You get to see over 40,000 people participating in this dance. It’s exciting to feel the energetic traditional music and see this number of dancers! This is a very powerful performance!
Let’s join the dance and enjoy it!

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

2. Re-enactment the Arrival of Korean Envoys During the Edo Period

Joseon (Korean) missions to Japan represent a crucial aspect of the international relations of mutual Japanese-Joseon contacts and communication.
Temporary Japan-Joseon interaction had been cut off due to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion to Korea. However, local leaders worked hard to reinstate that interaction and welcomed a total of 12 missions from Joseon during the Edo period.


The representatives of the Joseon court and accompanying soldiers must catch the eyes of pedestrians. A flag with the word “Joseon mission” fluttered in the breeze as a group dedicated to the reenactment makes its stately way through the town.

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

Also, I’d like to highlight that in October 2017, UNESCO’s Memory of the World heritage program agreed to register 333 diplomatic documents, travel records and records of cultural exchanges of a dozen missions by Korean envoys to Japan. The registration effort was the result of years of joint cooperation by both countries.

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

Details and Access

Date: Aug 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun) 2018
Place: Around Shimonoseki Station and Karato area
Information: 083-231-1350


Shin Shimonoseki Station is on the main Sanyo Shinkansen Line with Shinkansen bullet trains to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Tokyo. Change here for a Sanyo Line, take two stops to JR Shimonoseki Station.
Shimonoseki is connected by highway bus to both Osaka and Tokyo.

What Other Things You Can Do in Shimonoseki?

Shimonoseki has prospered as a gateway to Eurasia as well as a strategic stop for land and sea transport in the area. The city has places of natural beauty and historical interest typical of a castle town, such as ancient samurai residences and clay walls.

Tsunoshima Bridge – A bridge floating in the cobalt blue Sea of Japan

Tsunoshima island is known for its proximity to the main island and clear water surrounding it. The bridge is 1,780 meters in length. The scenery is beautifully interwoven with ocean, islands, and the bridge. For an amazing photo, be sure to stop by Amagase Park right before you cross the bridge!

Kaikyokan Aquarium – A landmark in the Kanmon Strait

It is an aquarium with over 100 types of puffer fish from the world’s oceans. What’s so good? Because Shimonoseki is known as the great spawning ground of the tiger puffer and we love to eat the puffer fish in a safe way without its poison, of course. Visitors can enjoy dolphins and sea lions shows. and a must-see attraction is the Penguin Village – one of Japan’s largest facilities for exhibiting penguins!

Image courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

Closing Remarks

Yamaguchi prefecture might not be among tourists as Kyoto or Tokyo, but Shimonoseki Bakan Festival vividly shows that this area has a rich history and can boast big festivals attracting a lot of people. You can be an experienced traveler or not, but if you are in Yamaguchi in summer I recommend you to visit Shimonoseki and see this unforgettable event!

If you would like local guides to join you at this festival or help you with your trip planning, please check the banner below!

Tomo Sato

Hi, I like spending time outdoors and I learned about tea ceremony. There are many beautiful places in Japan. I hope you will find this information useful.

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