Yosakoi and the Yosakoi Festival

With festivals and competitions held in over 200 locations in Japan, as well as in countries such as the US, Canada, UK, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Germany, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Ghana, Yosakoi is a popular Japanese dance style with an international appeal. Combining Japanese dancing with modern dance moves, it's an exciting hybrid form just as appealing for its traditional aspects as it is for its openness to creative interpretations.

While Yosakoi is present all over the world, there is one event that holds a special place in the hearts of many Yosakoi performers, and that's the Yosakoi Festival held every August since 1954 in Kochi City, where Yosakoi was born. As we've introduced before on grape Japan, the Yosakoi Festival was chosen by the Furusato Event Awards this year as the Best Hometown Event.

With around 18,000 dancers and 200 different companies now participating from both inside and outside of the prefecture, the Yosakoi Festival has grown into a huge undertaking which also serves as a major cultural exchange.

Pandemic forces Yosakoi Festival online

Unfortunately, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the organizing committee was forced to make a difficult decision this year. For the first time in its 66-year history, the Yosakoi Festival will be held online between August 9th to August 12th.

Under the banner of the Minna de Yosakoi Project みんなでよさこいプロジェクト ("Yosakoi together with everyone" project), which was launched in 2013 to serve the double goal of promoting Yosakoi as an important cultural asset of Kochi Prefecture and organizing the main sō-odori 総踊り group dance event where all the teams dance together, the Yosakoi Festival will try to maintain the spirit of Yosakoi and fulfill the participants' desire to perform in spite of the constraints of the online format.

The online festival is divided into three parts, a pre-festival held on August 9th in which videos of traditional Yosakoi dancing will be screened, the main festival held on August 10th and 11th where dance groups will perform via Zoom and simultaneously broadcast on YouTube, and the post-festival held on August 12th in which videos of contemporary Yosakoi dancing will be screened.

Kochi's finest show off their fine moves

Mentioned as an example by the Minna de Yosakoi Project in their press release, one video submission is already available for viewing. And if it's at all indicative of the quality of the online Yosakoi Festival this year, it looks like we're in for quite a treat.

Set to the music of GReeeeN's "Kono chi he" 「この地へ」("to this land"), an original song commissioned for the Yosakoi Festival, the video shows members of the Kochi Prefectural Police showing off some impressive dance moves.

The video starts out with a brief tour of Kochi City. The camera stops to focus on a police station...

We are taken inside the station and introduced to two police officers. After showing us a calendar with the words "Yosakoi Festival" penciled in on August 9th to 12th, we follow the two officers as they head out...

A close up reveals that they have brought along naruko, wooden clappers traditionally used in Yosakoi dancing.

As they head towards the central police station, it becomes clear that preparations are under way for the Yosakoi Festival, as we can see police marching band members.

Then the two officers are joined by others and they begin to dance.

Although their moves are decent but nothing spectacular at first, it becomes quite clear that there's at least one police officer on the force who is quite the dancer, showing off a decent windmill and other b-boy moves.

You can enjoy the video here:

To enjoy the festival online, here are the links you need to know:

By - Ben K.