Word of the Week 1: Yosakoi
Yosakoi (よさこい) means “come at night” and refers to a highly energetic style of traditional Japanese dance.
The history of Yosakoi as a festival event begins in 1954 when the 1st Yosakoi festival was held in Kochi City, Shikoku. Today there are hundreds of festivals not only in Japan but also in Ghana, Vietnam and Malaysia!
Here are a few words you need to know should get a chance to attend or participate in Yosakoi.
Happi: A Happi is a traditional straight-sleeved coat worn only at festivals. Pronounced the same as “happy” it can be worn by men & women and is used as a badge of identity.
Yukata: The yukata is a casual summer kimono made of cotton and worn by both men & women. During the summer months Japanese people will wear yukata to everything from local festivals to firework displays.
Naruko: The Naruko are hand-held clapping instruments that make a sound similar to the Spanish Castanets. Originally used by rice farmers in Shikoku they are a must when performing.
The Yosakoi Low-Down
Wherever the dance is performed it remains faithful to its roots in Kochi-city. As a result the use of Naruko clappers and use of the original melody in performances is a must.
The original Yosakoi had its own song which itself lifted from existing tradition. The Yosakoi song derives in part from the “Yosakoi melody”, a children’s song and a local folk song.
Being a traditional melody means that isn’t a copyrighted song. Performers are only obliged to include a refrain from the original song in their compositions. Beyond that there are no rules.
In the name of research I volunteered to help out at Tokyo’s largest Yosakoi event held in Yoyogi Park last month. The flag-bearers and costumes were worth it alone. I even got to dance (with) the Happy Chicken at the end!
Author: Declan Somers
Thanks to the people of Japan and the efforts of a UK-based telecoms company Mobell/Mobal am happy to assist in providing a hot school meal daily for kids in Malawi, Africa through a Japanese registered NGO- Seibo.
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