Look at those smiles!! (Photo: Lester Goh)

Super Yosakoi Festival

The ultimate Yosakoi dance festival experience

Look at those smiles!! (Photo: Lester Goh)
Lester Goh   - 3 min read

It is the hottest week of Summer. The sweltering sun hangs high over Shibuya, drenching everyone in sweat. But the crowd does not recede, neither do the megawatt smiles on the dancers' faces. Showcasing the vibrant Yosakoi dance, wave upon wave of performers take to the stage with energetic moves and youthful exuberance. This is the Harajuku Omotesando GenkiMatsuri Super Yosakoi Festival.

The Yosakoi dance originates from Kochi, Shikoku, where it evolved as a contemporary rendition of the famous traditional Awa Odori dance. Infusing classic moves with trendy, upbeat tunes, the Yosakoi quickly gained popularity throughout the country. In Tokyo, the Harajuku Omotesando GenkiMatsuri Super Yosakoi Festival is a summer highlight, drawing some 800,000 visitors annually since it was first held in 2001.

The Harajuku Omotesando GenkiMatsuri Super Yosakoi festival features over 5,000 performers participating in about 100 teams. Being the nation’s capital, Tokyo and its mega-rendition of the Yosakoi festival easily attracts teams from all over Japan. A peek at the festival brochure reveals a line-up featuring dancers from Sapporo, Hokkaido up north, all the way down to Yamaguchi in the southwest. The 2014 edition even welcomed an international team from Vietnam!

Performers hail from all walks of life, and it is a common sight to see young children and the elderly dancing side by side. On the other hand, there are also many participating university dance clubs, the students easily recognizable by their choice of groovy tempos and nifty moves.

Some teams up their game with acrobatic stunts, others with dazzling costumes that seem to transform at will. Props are aplenty, from the traditional Naruko, small wooden clappers to giant paper fans from which performers conjure a cloud of confetti. To me, however, the best ‘weapon’ has to be the unfailing smiles on every dancer’s face, so brilliant they’ll make you forget the summer heat.

The Harajuku Omotesando GenkiMatsuri Super Yosakoi festival is held on the last Saturday and Sunday of August. Festivities kick off at 10am and go till 6pm at three permanent stages located in Yoyogi Park, the Meiji Jingu Museum and right beside the exit of JR Harajuku Station. There is a parade in front of the NHK building along the Yoyogi Park avenue on both days and another parade down the famous Omotesando Avenue from 12noon till 5pm, this one only on Sunday.

Lester Goh

Lester Goh @lester.goh

Singaporean architect living in Tokyo. When not busy designing fancy buildings or restoring Akiya houses, Lester enjoys travelling and exploring hidden areas in Japan.