Dancing All Night: Takachiho’s Yokagura Festival

Miyazaki’s own Takachiho-cho is the birthplace of many Japanese myths and legends. These events are recreated in the form of yokagura (夜神楽), a traditional Shinto dance. The full traditional yokagura is comprised of 33 dances. Every night at 8pm, Takachiho Shrine (map) hosts an abbreviated version of yokagura which you can see for around 700円.

From November to February, however, each shrine in the village takes turns hosting all-night performances of the full yokagura! The revelry starts around sundown and doesn’t stop until the next morning, but the audience is free to wander in and out and drink shochu to stay warm (lots of layers are recommended).

To give you an inside look at this annual festival, former Takachiho JET Ellen Freeman has graciously allowed us to repost an article she wrote for the Kyushu Article Contest last year. Enjoy! Continue reading

History of Japan – The Origins of Coming of Age Day

Last Monday marked Coming of Age Day across Japan. Traditionally an important day in the life of youths and their families, the holiday revolves around coming of age ceremonies (成人式 seijin-shiki) at which the country’s 20-year-olds are welcomed into adult life. Along with their legal responsibilities, on this day, new adults in Japan celebrate their rights to (legally) purchase and smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and vote.

With a celebration so important that it deserves its own national holiday, it’s worth looking back into the past to try to track the origins of this ceremony. Continue reading