Japan Performing Arts Bon Odori Festival
Friday, August 30 from 7:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 31 from noon until 9:00 p.m.
Governors Island – Outlook Hill and Nolan Park
Japan Performing Arts (JPA), a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing Japanese traditional performing arts to New York, is hosting a two-day Bon Odori Festival on Governors Island.
In the Buddhist observance of Obon, the Japanese welcome the souls of their ancestors back home. It is customary to leave food out for one’s ancestors, to light lanterns (or obon in Japanese), and to participate in the Bon Odori, or folk dance. JPA will introduce Japan’s Big Three Bon Odori: Nishimonai Bon Odori, Gujo Odori, and Awa Odori. In most cases, only trained locals perform these regional-specific dances. JPA received permission to teach these dances and perform them on Governors Island.
Japan’s Big Three Bon Odori
Nishimonai Bon Odori – Akita Prefecture
This dance has a 700-year history. It began as a harvest dance in 1280 and was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1981. Participants wear distinct costumes. The women dancers wear patchwork kimono called hanui and straw hats called amigasa. Those who are dressed in yukata and black hoods that obscure their faces represent the spirits of departed ancestors.
Gujo Odori – Gifu Prefecture
Also an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, Gujo Odori dates back to the Edo Era, 400 years ago, and brought together all of the residents of the entire town— samurai, farmers, artisans, and tradesmen—regardless of social status. The festival has ten dances and last 32 nights!
Awa Odori – Tokushima Prefecture
The Awa Odori is the largest dance festival in Japan. Legend has it that the dance originated in 1586, when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa, the daimyō (feudal lord) of Awa Province on the island of Shikoku threw a drunken party to celebrate the opening of Tokushima Castle.
JPA members will perform the three Bon Odori on the night of Friday, August 30 and twice on Saturday, August 31. Saturday will also be an all-day festival, with Japanese food vendors and family-friendly activities such as a wanage (Japanese ring toss) contest, watermelon splitting, and a sumo match.
About Japan Performing Arts, Inc.
JPA was formed by Yuko Hamada, a dancer and choreographer of Nihon Buyo, or traditional Japanese dance. A former member of Takarazuka Revue Company, Japan’s renowned all-female theater group, Hamada graduated from the dramatic writing program of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has written, produced, and directed three Off-Broadway plays.
JPA’s Bon Odori is an associated program of Japan 2019, an initiative by the Japanese government to spread Japanese culture throughout the US.
For more information about JPA’s Bon Odori, please visit japanperformingarts.org.