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!
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!
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!
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?
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!
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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 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