You can observe Japan through a wide view if you study the culture focusing in Bon Dancing: hundreds of years of history, folk customs, modern education in Japan, local community

Types of Bon Dancing

There are two large trends in Bon Dancing:
Traditional type of Bon Dancing, and Folk Dance type, which developped after
the WW2. There are variety of patterns in traditional type, and there is a close relation with the local folk customs. Regarding music, there are patterns
such as; songs only, drums only, flute, shamisen,
but people dance to live performance in every pattern. Folk dance type
developped after WW2, and people usually dance to the music of folk records
played in town parks and cummunity centers.

A brief history of “Bon Dancing”

Middle Ages: The birth of Bon Dancing. The peak of one of the most famous andrepresentative Nembutsu entertainment.

Modern Times: The formation of Bon Dancing. Bon Dancing takes root.Nembutsu Dancing and Furyu

Modern Period: Change, extinction, revival, born again, and to the future
Meiji Era: Being prohibited and became extinct

Taisho Era: Revival and change

Showa Era: Come up again and brought back. Tradition and Extinction
Extinction of Folklore¨wanting to go back to the pas

Future: Who will be the successor of Bon Dancing?
Now, I’d like to go into some small topics concerning Bon Dancing.

Festivals like Bon Dancing were one of the noble consuming life of the people. Our production activity was saved from being simply a work of materials, thanks to these festivals.

When is Bon Dancing danced?
“All night dancing”: the real nature of Bon Dancing There are regions in which “All night dancing” is danced in August 14th to 17th, the middle of Bon. It is danced from the evening to daybreak of the next day.

It was August the day of “Akiba Festival” when I first experienced Bon Festival at Gujou Hachiman. The next day, I was telling everybody that the festival is so wonderful. Then the people of the town said that “If you come to dance, you must not miss the “All night dancing”. All night dancing” is so attractive and beautiful as the people say. In Gujou, they dance for about 2 months, but it can be safely said that the highlight is “All night dancing”

There are many places in local Bon Dancing besides Gujou Hachiman where they maintain the tradition of “All night dancing” Although, it is changing through the history of Modern Period. Let’s go to Bon Dancing:
What kind of dress do you have to wear ?
You usually wear “yukata”. You can either purchase or simply borrow at kimono store.People wear “geta” as a footwear. If you are not accustomed of wearing it, you can get tired.

How do you learn the dance ?
Rather than learning from the video recordings, we’d like to learn in the real dance circle. Go after the person in front. A good dancer from the conservation association would be a nice model to follow.

Local Customs

The origin of Bon is a Buddist event called
Urabonkai, but actually it has much influence from local customs of ancient
Japan, such as memorial service of the ancestors, Bon ornaments, etc. Lyrics of
old Bon Dancing tends to be rather vulgar. It might have been an occasion when
grown ups drove away their gloom by singing dirty things that you can’t say at
ordinary times, youngsters used lover’s tactics by songs and dances, children
enjoyed the dance innocently.


There are 3250 local governments in Japan, but
there must be few places that they don’t hold Bon dancing. The biggest event is
Awa Dancing, and 1.4 million people turn out. Around 250 thousand people turn
out in Gujo Dancing and Bon of the Wind. If you add all of these, it can be
considered that around 10 million people are participating in this event each

Education, regions

Bon Dancing is used in schools when they
teach Japanese tradition. Also, Bon Dancing is planned under the auspices of
women’s association and resident’s association as a place of regional exchange.
The number of successors of traditional Bon Dancing tends to decrease. However,
conservartion activities are being carried out in various places under the
jurisdiction of the board of education.