I have come to associate summer in Japan with festivals, fireworks, yukatai. Indeed, everywhere you go in July and August, it is more likely or not you will bump into a festival or two in the local town. What I look forward to, in particular, is the dance festivals. So far, I have been to Gujo Hachiman for its famous Gujo Dance Festival, Ecchu-yatsuo for its elegant Owara Kaze no bon, as well as Johana for its Mugiya dance festival. This year, I have decided to experience something new, venturing to Gujo Shirotori, a neighboring town to Gujo Hachiman, for its less famous but no less exciting dance festival, which is held on specific dates throughout July and August, with a few nights of overnight dances in mid-August elevating the festival to its climax. In fact, having heard rave reviews about the festival from a number of friends, I have been yearning to take part in this dance festival for long, and this year I finally got the time to do so. Shirotori dance is known for the generally fast tempo for some of its songs, which demands corresponding fast dance steps. Same as in Gujo dance, people usually wear geta, or wooden clogs to the dance, without which it will be less fun. And last year, I have dutifully bought a pair of wooden clogs just for the dancing occasions. What makes the Shirotori dance more fun is the accelerating rhythm towards to end of the signature piece titled “ “, with the locals singing along and chanting.
Worrying that I might not be able to master the steps in one night, I have decided to stay there for three nights and danced on every one of them. On the first night, I appeared very awkward, at a loss of how to move my hands and legs. But on the second night, I began to master the steps somehow, and was able to enjoy the dance to its fullest. Shirotori will no doubt be on my to-go list next year as well.