Culture, Experience, Lifestyle,

Japan’s most international Obon dance festival! “Roppongi Hills Bon-Odori”

The Japanese summer includes fireworks, festivals and the Obon dance (“Bon Odori”). Everywhere in Japan at least one of these three summer activities takes place. The summer festival in the Roppongi – a vibrant area in Tokyo surrounded by office buildings, embassies, museums, and nightclubs – is something special. Therefore, I would like to talk about this fun festival and the Obon dance!

Roppongi Hills

This is the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. The festival takes place right next to this building.

On the way from the train station to the festival, my friends and I saw many people wearing a Yukata ( a cotton summer kimono). But wait! Some of the people had their hair dyed blue, a lot of piercings or sashes (“obi”) with funny patterns. How creative! This is the spirit of Roppongi!

Look at this gorgeous yukata sash!

Look at this gorgeous yukata sash!

The Obon dance took place at the “Roppongi Hills Arena”. This is a square with a huge roof right next to the futuristic Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. In the center of the square stood a two-storied stage, which is called “Yagura” in Japanese. Around the stage, hundreds of people were dancing slowly in a circle. Seen from above, this looked really impressive!

The festival dance seen from above.

The festival dance seen from above.

We descended into the arena and approached the Yagura. At the top of the upper floor, a woman with dynamic movements beats rhythmically on a Japanese drum. The visitors of the festival danced to this rhythm around and around the stage. But wait! Why were all of them so good dancers? How did everyone know the dance?

female drummer

A female drummer on the top of the Yagura stage.

The answer is on the lower stage. A dance team was dancing there and showing everybody the movements. Bon Odori is great because everybody can join. If you do not know the dance, just watch the performers on stage. Or just imitate the movements of a neighboring dancer!

Performers on stage

Performers on stage show visitors how to dance.

 imitate the dance

That’s us, trying to imitate the dance…

Let’s dance!

At a Bon dance, the movements of your hands express daily movements (like digging or carrying something). The same movements are repeated over and over again until the song is over. Therefore, it is not too difficult to learn a new dance at all. Even though you can’t dance freely and it’s just dancing slowly in a big circle…it is soooo much fun! I had a great time!


As a special guest, famous anime character “Doraemon” also appeared on stage and danced his own Bon Odori dance!

"firework dance"

At the “firework dance”, you express the explosions of the sparkling fireworks with your hands.

The songs we danced were the “Tokyo Dance” (“Tokyo Ondo”) – which was quite difficult to remember – and the “Fireworks Dance” where you had to express scattering fireworks with your hands. The event also featured Roppongi Hills’ original Bon Dance called “Ropponjin Ondo” (= “The Roppongi people’s dance”). The lyrics were shown on a big screen at the arena and went something like this:

花のお江戸の真ん中に 産声上げたよ 未来の街が
In the midst of beautiful Edo (Tokyo), a futuristic town is born!

老いも若きも外人さんも ヒルズヒルズと集まるよ
The Old, the Young, and foreigners, too, let’s come together!

世界に広がる 六つの輪 喜びいっぱい 六本人
ソレ ヨイヨイヨイ
Spread the joy of Roppongi to the whole world!
Sore yoi yoi yoi!

As you can see in the lyrics, foreign participants are also very welcome. Actually, there were a lot of foreigners and some of them even wore yukata.

Good job!!

Good job!!

Hungry? No problem!

There were food stalls inside the arena, and gourmet food trucks on the Keikigaka Street near by. Different international dishes and fun drinks such as lamb chop grill and ginger lime beer were sold.


“Kampai”! – Cheers!

When you walk down Keakigasaka Street and turn right at the intersection with TSUTAYA, you’ll come to the Azabu-Juban district. At the same time as “Roppongi Hills Bon Odori” takes place, the “Azabujuban Summer Festival” with – has a long tradition – is being held. You can visit two festivals in just one day! I’d say: two birds with one stone!

Gourmet food trucks

Gourmet food trucks

Keyakizaka Street

A row of food trucks at Keyakizaka Street

The summer festival season of 2017 has come to an end (ans fall festivals start). Of course, the same festival will be held again next summer. If you visit Tokyo in August, let’s meet at the dance at Roppongi Hills!


Roppongi Hills Bon Odori

Roppongi Hills Bon Dance
Date: Last weekend in August, Friday to Sunday
Time: [Food stands and trucks] 15: 00 – 21: 00,
[Bon Odori] 17: 00 ~ 20: 00
Place: Roppongi Hills Arena
Participation Fee: Free

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I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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