TOPArt & CultureJapanese CulturePremium Yosakoi in Tokyo: Inclusivity and Diversity Behind Kochi’s Iconic Dance Festival

Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo: Inclusivity and Diversity Behind Kochi’s Iconic Dance Festival

The local-turned-global performing arts is all about freedom of expression — and now, it finally goes online in a one-off glorious performance

By Camilla Chandra

Kochi Prefecture’s well-known dance festival is going online this season in a free YouTube live streaming (now on-demand) event. Co-sponsored by the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo encapsulates the high spirits of the traditional dance despite making some adjustments following Covid-19 precautions.

premium yosakoi in tokyo

The Yosakoi Festival has been held in more than 200 locations in Japan and 33 regions around the world. It was a festival that emerged from the calamity of Japan’s postwar period. Despite being part of a mission to improve local prosperity and health, Yosakoi quickly gained international popularity. It also became a dance strongly recognized for its creative freedom. Before the pandemic, multinational performers dressed in colorful costumes would parade on the streets to give their unique renditions of Yosakoi. The performances are expressive and upbeat while the costumes are meticulously prepared. From giant rainbow flags and purple happi-style coats to kimono outerwear and bamboo hats, each team gives their refreshing interpretations that represent both Yosakoi and their culture. The dancers all have Naruko clappers – traditional instruments painted in vermillion, yellow and black. As they flick them, a clear clap-like sound emerges, giving the performance more energy. 

premium yosakoi in tokyo

Freedom of Expression

There are no tight restrictions to Yosaki except a few simple rules. Dancers must hold the naruko clappers, continue to move forward and include some part of Eisaku Takemasa’s original “Yosakoi Naruko Dancing” song. This makes Yosakoi versatile and allows anyone, regardless of race and gender, to fuse various dance styles and music arrangements. The charm of Yosakoi is, after all, in its freedom of expression.

“[We] hope to bring a little cheer and smile to many people despite the current Covid-19 pandemic,” says Representative Director Aoki Akihiro. The committee has gathered some of the top dance teams from Japan. This includes the Obiyamachisuji dancers who have participated in the annual Kochi Yosakoi Festival since its first event in 1954. There will be pre-recorded and on-site performances, as well as live broadcasts from various prefectures including Hokkaido, Nagasaki, Saitama and Kochi. 

premium yosakoi in tokyo

A Fusion of Traditional and Modern Japan

Befitting to its theme, Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo is staged around the story of a girl who encounters Yosakoi. It begins with her stumbling across a naruko. This sparks her curiosity and she proceeds to watch the different variations of Yosakoi’s choreography. Her fascination morphs into real dedication, particularly after she meets other dancers from different nationalities and ages. On the surface, her story seems trivial, if not typical, but it nods to the very core of Yosakoi: A fusion of traditional and modern Japan, tied together by diversity and creativity.

Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo closes off with a grand epilogue, where six teams appear on the stage in their happi coats and glamorous ornaments while dancing alongside global fans and other performers in Japan. Fast-paced, spectacular and lively, the event easily draws the audience into the vibrant world of Yosakoi. 

Limited rebroadcasts will be available on YouTube until Jul 22. Commentaries are available in both Japanese and English. For more information, visit Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo’s official website.

Watch Premium Yosakoi in Tokyo here: