Bon Odori

Bon Odori © Eyefortheworld /

Bon Odori

Bon odori is a big festival dance held during summer holidays.

Bon odor is a folk entertainment, having a history of nearly 600 years. It originates from Buddhism rites of ‘Urabon-e’, that people consider the spirit of ancestors return to the earth during this period of time. Bon odori dancers sometimes feel as if they are dancing together with their ancestors. That is why bon odori dancers put masks in some part of Japan. In the old days, it also served as an occasion for men and women to get together. 

Today’s bon odori is more inclined toward entertainment-an opportunity to enjoy dancing. Bon odori is held across the country. Huge bon odori events are organized by large municipal governments, while small local districts and towns hold them as their own events. Bon odori is held mainly in August, so that it can be a big local event for children during their summer holidays. 

Types of bon odori

There are two types of bon odori; dento-odori (traditional dancing) which has been maintained from the old days, and minyo-odori (dancing with folk songs) which has developed since the end of the WWⅡ.

Dento odori has strong ties with local folk customs. Dancers dance accompanied with live music; only songs or drums, or flute and samisen (Japanese banjo).

Recently minyo odori is gaining popularity. Dancers dance in circle around a tower built at the center of parks or plazas with music called ‘ondo’. ‘Tokyo-ondo’ and ‘Tanko-bushi’ are most famous ondo numbers. There are even some ondo arranged from animation music. 

Enjoy bon odori

The dancing and music of bon odori varies from area to area. Participating bon odori makes you feel an atmosphere, music, dancing of a particular area firsthand. Before you start   dancing, you watch dancers’ movement closely, and join into the circle while following other dancers. Dancers just repeat the same pattern of movement so that everyone can dance it soon. There is no problem to join in the dancing as most bon odori is open to all comers.

It is no matter what kind of clothes you wear, but if you wear yukata (Japanese robe), you could fully enjoy it. Japanese fans, the uchiwa and sensu will help you get into the

spirit of bon odori. Placing uchiwa and sensu between your sash and yukata makes you look cool. 

Placing an uciwa fan into sash on your back  so it will not to bother you while dancing.

Bon Odori: Video Gallery

People are dancing Tanko-bushi