TOKYO: Communities around Japan are planning to hold summer “bon” dance festivals and fireworks shows this year after such events were canceled in the previous two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers are preparing to implement infection prevention measures in order to relaunch the summer traditions.
In the central Japan prefecture of Gifu, “Gujo Odori,” a festival designated an important intangible folk cultural asset by the government, is set to be held for the first time in three years, from July 9 to Sept. 3.
But the event, known as the longest bon dance festival in Japan, will be held on 17 nights instead of 31 as a step intended to curb novel coronavirus infections.
A reception booth will be set up at the festival venue for the first time, to monitor the number of participants. There are also plans to swap festival-goers with newly arriving participants, depending on crowding levels.
The association to preserve the tradition of Gujo Odori marks its 100th anniversary this year.
“We are putting our full efforts into practicing the music and dances for the event,” association leader Masamitsu Fujita, 89, said. “We want to meet the expectations of people looking forward to the festival.”
In Kochi Prefecture in western Japan, known for its “Yosakoi Matsuri” festival, a dance event will be held in August with a smaller venue and audience than in usual years.
The event will run for two days instead of the standard four, and the number of participating dance teams will be halved to 100. The organizers will set up stations near venues to measure people’s temperatures.
The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival in Niigata Prefecture, central Japan, is slated to be held for two days from Aug. 2 after a two-year hiatus.
The organizers of the event, known as one of Japan’s three biggest fireworks shows, will scrap free seats and increase the number of paid seats from around 110,000 to some 160,000, in order to monitor the number of visitors.
“Many people were looking forward to the event, so I hope they enjoy it,” said an official of the festival host, Nagaoka Fireworks Foundation.
Meanwhile, the “Yagibushi Odori” dance of the “Kiryu Yagibushi Matsuri” festival in the eastern prefecture of Gunma will again be canceled this year. The feature program was put off due to concerns about a large number of people crowding together to dance.
But the youth-centered “Dance Yagibushi” and other programs in the festival will be resumed with infection prevention measures.
“We don’t want the lights of the festival to go out,” said an official of the city of Kiryu, which serves as the secretariat of the festival’s executive committee. “We hope it can be held magnificently in its original form next year.”