Schedule, Location

Also today, the Kemanai Bon Dancing is held 3 days from August 21.
It is a “last half type” schedule which is later than August 13 to 16 which are the main days of Obon. It is a pattern that are often seen in Tohoku region such as Nishimonai Bon Dancing which is also held in Akita Prefecture.
According to the book written by Mr. Katsuei Yanagisawa “Kemanai no Bon Odori (Bon Dancing of Kemanai)”, there was a time when the dance continued for a week. We can know the atmosphere of the times when the Kemanai Bon Dancing was active.

The traditional dancing hours of Kemanai Bon Dancing is from early-evening to nighttime.
Some people say that in the past, the people danced until the shank of the evening, and Tetsuya Odori (All night dancing) could be seen like in the other localities. However, in the present, it ends before around 10 o’clock at night in order to maintain the moral order. Also in events such as children’s dancing contests, they are danced during the hours before it gets too late.


The street of the town of Kemanai is the dancing site. Especially, Kamimachi, Nakamachi, and Shimomachi of the “Honcho Dohri (Honcho Street)” are the places where they have traditionally been the center of the dance. The headquarter of the promoting association of Bon Dancing is set up in the center of the street (Nakamachi). The dancing circle spreads all around the street, and the dancers dance facing inward of the circle. The broad street turns out to be a good place to dance.
“The dancers can dance freely because there are place for the spectators. Also, the width of the street is suitable as a place to dance.

(The journal “Kaishin no Kazuno (The Reform of Kazuno)” August 20, 1953)

According to the book written by Mr. Yanagisawa which is mentioned above, people say that in the Taisho Era, the dance was held in “Furumachi” and from 1945 to 1954 it was also held in the streets of each town, such as Gokencho, Shimomachi, Yokocho, Kayamachi, Shitakohji.

Besides above, it was also held in the occasion of children’s contest and in the schoolyard of an elementary school when it was held by Yokocho and Kayamachi. However, the dancing site was set back to the streets as it was in the old times for the reason that “the traditional atmosphere of the dance will become impaired.”

In the round-table discussion of “Kemanai Bon Dancing”, (held by Kazuno City Board of Education), there are statements such as; although the dancers try to dance in a large wa-odori (circle dance) in dancing sites out of town, or try to dance facing outward of the circle for rendition, they cannot dance well since they cannot play along with the dancers around.
Resultingly, it seems to be that a traditional style of dancing which was cultivated after taking a long time, that is, dance in a long and thin circle in the streets of towns is the best style for dancing.


■The structure of the “Kazuno Bon Dancing Zone”

Starting with Towada district of Kemanai Bon Dancing, Bon Dancing was enjoyed in many villages and towns around the Kazuno area, such as Hachiman-daira district, Hanawa district, Ohyu district. What is interesting is that a moderate regional structure of the schedule of Bon Dancing can be found if we look Kazuno Area as a whole.

According to “Kazuno Shishi (The history of Kazuno)” and “Kemanai no Bon Odori (Bon Dancing of Kemanai)”, in Kazuno Area, people start dancing Bon Dancing of each villages in the villages nearby from the Bon season, that is, August 13 and 14.
“From the beginning of August, people start beating drums in the premises of shrines and open spaces in the villages nearby. This good old sound of the drums reverberate through the hills, go across the rice paddy and heard in the town of Kemanai.
Before long, when the end of the Bon season comes, Bon Dancings are held in the villages nearby, and when the Hatsuka-bon (August 20) ends, at last, the Bon Dancing of Kemanai is held.” (“Kemanai no Bon Odori (Bon Dancing of Kemanai)” written by Katsuei Yanagisawa)@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Although the events of Bon ends in August 16, there were regions where they held events of “Hatsuka-bon” such as making farewell fires and taking off the Bon shelves on August 20 or 21calling it the end of Bon season. And when the Hatsuka-bon ends, at last the Bon Dancings of the towns such as Kemanai and Hanawa will be held spectacularly. The machi-odori (dancing in towns) of Hanawa is held for a quite a long period of time since they say that “It continues until the middle of September, or the harvest moon” according to (Kazuno Shishi (the history of the city of Kazuno)).

Here, we can read the intention to liven up each Bon Dancings and enjoy the dances as long as they can by staggering the period of Bon Dancings among the neighboring villages and towns. This is a strategy of the common people regarding the Bon Dancing which can be seen nationwide from a long time ago, and the example of Kazuno Area can be considered as one of these. However, what is characteristic of Kazuno Area is that the structure between schedule and area is very clear in this area.
In the example of Kazuno, the contrast between the Bon Dancing of the villages and that of the towns such as Kemanai and Hanawa can be seen at first. This is a broad view point that can be expanded to a more common typology issue of Bon Dancing rather than simply a “contrast between the dances of the villages and those of the towns”. It relates to the issues such as the story of history, that is, which of these started first in Kazuno Area, the story of costume and the aspect of the entertainment, that is, the gorgeousness of the dances in towns, the issue of the difference between the surrounding rural area and the urban area concerning their ability to attract large number of crowds.

Secondly, the structure of period which can be called as “the dances of the Bon-naka (dances during the Bon season) and the dances of Bon-go (dances after the Bon season)” having Hatsuka-bon as the boundary can be seen. This is an issue which relates to the so-called “The schedule of posterior half type” which we referred in “The Framework of Bon Dancing”.

Mr. Yuhkichi Kodera presents an assumption that “the dances in Bon-naka are danced for the spirits, and the dances in Bon-go are danced for the human beings”. If we put together with the fact that in Kazuno, the Bon Dancings of the towns are held in Bon-go it could be an interesting issue.

In the third place, since these regional structures did not come down through the changes of the modern and contemporary times, it can be considered that it is a very consistent structure.
What kind of adjustment dynamics of the areas worked and the structure of the schedule remained in the period when it changed to the Bon season schedule of the lunar calendar to August Bon season? Also, in the round-table discussion on “Kemanai Bon Dancing” sponsored by Kazuno City Board of Education there are speeches saying that there were backgrounds of trial and error, such as; in Kemanai, there were times after the WW 2 that people danced Bon Dancing around August 15, but since it coincided with such events as the neighboring Hanawa Bayashi (Hanawa Festival) and the Ohyu no Oh-daiko (The drum performance of Ohyu), and the number of dancers decreased, they returned the schedule to the old-style, that is, dancing after the Hatsuka-bon after all.

If we consider the story above, we can anticipate the fact that the Bon Dancing of Kemanai might have been positioned in the wider structure of Bon Dancings in Kazuno Area and that it did not exist only by itself only in the towns of Kemanai and Towada Region. The people of Kazuno Area adjusted the schedule of holding Bon Dancings in the area through a long period of time, and they enjoyed the seasons of dancings while being conscious of the schedule of the dances of various regions which are held from the Bon season to the end of August and September . Kemanai Bon Dancing tells us the existence of regional structure what could be called as “Kazuno Bon Dancing Zone”.

(Background materials)

“Kazuno Shishi (History of Kazuno City) Vol. 4” Kazuno City, 1996
“Kemanai no Bon Odori (Bon Dancing of Kemanai)” written by Katsuei Yanagisawa 1999*
Kazuno Shi Bunkazai Chousa Shiryou 13 (Search documentation of cultural assets of Kazuno City 13) ” Kemanai Bon Odori-Showa 54 nendo Bunka-cho Kiroku Sentaku Jigyo Houkokusho (Kemanai Bon Dancing-Recordation Selection Program Report by the Agency of Cultural Affairs in the fiscal year of 1979)
Kazuno City Board of Education, 1980
“Kaishin no Kazuno (The Reform of Kazuno) August 20, 1953
“Brochure of Kemanai Kita no Bon” Kemanai Kita no Bon Executive Committee, 2004

*We deeply appreciate Mr. Katsuei Yanagisawa who kindly allowed us to quote from his books when we made out this page.