The Yamagata Hanagasa ("flower umbrella") Festival is one of the major summer festivals of the Tohoku area. Held every year from August 5th through the 7th, it draws in over 1,000,000 people over three days. On the first day, prayers for the festival deity "Zao Gongen"(Yamagata's other name "Zao" comes from this figure) as well as the prayer parade Hanagasa Daiko Hozon Kai begin in front of Yamagata City Hall. With a lavishly decorated float of Zao Gongen leading the way, nearly 10,000 dancers in bright costume dance gloriously through Yamagata City's main street yelling the call "Yassho, makasho!" with good energy.
There are many types of dances as well, for instance the orthodox Kunpu Mogamigawa danced by women and the orthodox Zao Gyoko danced by men, that have been performed since the very first festival, or the dynamic Kasa Mawashi ("Umbrella Spinning") or the elaborate Sosaku Odori ("Creative Dancing"). There are plenty of chances to participate in the dancing, so give it a try while you can!
At the Hanagasa Matsuri, you can see such a wide array of dancing and colorful costumes. You will be particularly astounded by the Hanagasa Butodan (a group of traditional dancers made of teachers and their apprentices) and their flawless orthodox performance following right behind the Zao Gongen float at the front of the parade.
At the goal line (Bunsho Kan Mae), you will be intoxicated by the summer night of Yamagata, fully glowing by illuminated arches and lanterns, a real summer festival treat.
You can participate in the Wa Odori that takes place in front of the Yamagata City Hall by the goal line right before the parade starts, or at the tail end of the parade where any one can "jump in freely". During the day at the Manabi Kan building, you can practice at proper dance lessons before jumping into the parade. (Check the lesson times on the Hanagasa website)
The festival really picks up towards the end of the parade and reaches the peak of excitement as the last group crosses the goal line.
Leaving the Yamagata Station, there is a 100 yen bus that circulates center city, passing by many tourist attractions and historical buildings so be sure to take advantage of that during the light hours in preparation for the festivities at night.
For those who are truly captivated by the festival, there are Hanagasa as well as CDs with festival songs that make perfect souvenirs. There are also simplified small handmade Hanagasa Fans made from traditional paper, and foldable fans as well.
Picture provided by Yamagata Pref. Hanagasa Committee
English, simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean
Entering the parade path while ongoing is strictly prohibited. Please do not join in the dancing in any other sections other than the ones mentioned above
When preselecting a place for your viewing base, please make sure to leave ample room for those walking by. A width of 1.2m must be kept for passersby. Please make sure there is always someone present and do not leave behind any valuables.
Please do not sit on the curbs and keep from sticking your feet into the road. Do not enter the road for any reason. (Please refrain from putting the dancers in any form of danger.)
Drones are also strictly prohibited along the parade route and other regulated roads.
There is possibility of cancelation due to typhoons, strong winds and other harsh weather like snow.
Access to Yamagata City
JR Yamagata Shinkansen, Yamagata Station
Goal Line/Bunsho Kan: 3-4-51 Hatago Machi, Yamagata City, 990-0047. Streets will be regulated from 17:50 to 22:00.
When coming by the 100 yen bus
Get off at any of the following: Toka Machi Kurenai no Kura Mae, Central Post Office, Honmachi, Nanuka Machi. The last available bus will leave Yamagata Station at 17:30)
When coming by Yamako Bus
Get off at any of the following: Toka Machi Kurenai no Kura Mae, Central Post Office, Honmachi, Nanuka Machi, Yamagata Shiyakusho Mae.
After traffic restrictions let up, when coming by Yamako Bus, please get off at Nanuka Machi, or Hokenjo Mae.