The vibrant dance at Bon Odori festival at Beppu - Waku Waku

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The vibrant dance at Bon Odori festival at Beppu

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The vibrant dance at Bon Odori festival at Beppu

Bon Odori is a large festival held in mid-August in Japan. It is considered the Japanese Ghost festival to commemorate their ancestors and the deceased, and it is the time for families to reunite to socialize, rest, and clean their homes.

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Published on 11 Aug, 12:00

On these days, the small roads in Beppu were bustling and crowded. Everyone was dressed in the colorful Yukata, walked along the pavement, and gathered towards the spacious area near the Beppu coast, where the Bon Odori festival took place, with delicious food stalls and game booths to enjoy while waiting for an upcoming fireworks performance.

I and my friends in Beppu were also looking forward to this festival. Although we did not have the chance to rent out lovely Yukata costumes, we still came quite early to enjoy and immerse ourselves in the unique Bon dance of the Japanese.

Traditional tunes

We arrived at the festival center around 5 pm when the Bon dance performance started. Many families came even earlier, but because we planned to watch fireworks in the evening, I thought arriving late afternoon was a good time since we didn't have to wait for too long.

From a distance, we could already hear the bustling music of the traditional dance. I heard a man shouting out a line, and then everyone was repeating it together. The first and the following words form a lively and bustling folk song.

As we got closer to the festival area, the sound of Taiko drums echoed louder, and the drummers were both drumming and moving in a large circle in the center.

Visitors and the locals stood around to form the outer circle, and they danced together. Although we were confused about the traditional Bon dance, we still blended in with the crowd to have fun.

The men wearing Yukata were Taiko drummers in the Bon Odori festival
The men wearing Yukata were Taiko drummers in the Bon Odori festival

Stalls with attractions

As we went further into the open space, the food stalls and game booths, which were decorated with bright red lanterns, gradually appeared. There were various delicious summer dishes such as grilled octopus, cotton candy, shaved ice with syrup,... which attracted the visitors. The game booths were also packed with people.

We tried playing the goldfish scooping game and watermelon splitting game. The food and games at the Bon Odori festival were relatively cheap and cost only 200 yen and 600 yen depending on the dish. Although these were just small games, they were enough to leave me with many good memories of the time I spent in Japan, and at that moment, I really missed the times I went to the Lunar New Year - Tet Festival in Vietnam.

A photo from the Bon Odori festival
A photo from the Bon Odori festival

After visiting the stalls, we walked to the open yard area to wait for the fireworks. People had already gathered here earlier, so it was very crowded. Families gathered together, and children ran and jumped everywhere, making the festive atmosphere even more exciting. Some families even prepared large food baskets to enjoy slowly.

Finally, we sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Because it was the first time I went to the Bon Odori festival, I did not know that I should have prepared a small carpet to sit on. We had to sit directly on the ground, so it was hot. Please note this and come prepared!

In the distance, they had set up a small stage, where the musical performances had been held before the fireworks display began. As the Japanese folk music started, everyone clapped and sang along to the song. On the stage, both the old and the young men and women wore Yukata, held red lanterns in their hands while they sang and danced.

Waiting to watch the fireworks display (Author's photo)
Waiting to watch the fireworks display (Author's photo)

At precisely 7 pm, colorful flower-like fireworks bloomed in the sky. Everyone was so excited. It was not the first time I had watched fireworks in Japan, but the fireworks were indeed breathtaking this time.

Perhaps because this was the first time I saw it up close, I could fully appreciate the beauty of this brilliant performance.

The fireworks display
The fireworks display

I also heard that the Bon Odori festivals in other big cities like Tokyo or Osaka had even more spectacular performances such as fire offerings, praying, and festivals that lasted more than a week.

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to participate in those famous places. In the future, I will surely come back to Japan in August to once again immerse myself in this beautiful and festive atmosphere!

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