Kaze no bon

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Kaze-no-Bon dancer
Kaze-no-Bon dancer

Kaze no Bon (風の盆) is a Japanese festival held every year from September 1 to 3 in Yatsuo, Toyama, Japan. Kaze-no-Bon literally translates to "Bon Dance of the Wind."

This festival, having a history of about 300 years, is recently becoming a popular tourist attraction to the otherwise sparsely populated mountain area. The original festival was held in order to appease typhoons and allow for a bountiful harvest of rice.

What makes this festival so unique is that it is held at night. The streets are decorated with paper lanterns, and long rows of young men and women, their faces covered by low-brimmed straw hats, dance simultaneously to rather melancholic music. This particular style of music is also unique to the region, using an otherwise rare instrument, the kokyū (胡弓). A well-aged female voice and a traditional shamisen (三味線) often accompanies the kokyū.

The hats, worn with matching kimonos, cover the dancers faces to hide them from the wrath of the god they hope to appease. One other feature of the dancers is that they are all unmarried. This is similar to the idea that 1) doing the dance may gain the attention of the gods who may get mad at them and 2) to do the dance is akin to a virginal self-sacrifice. But these far more traditional ideas that are carried by superstition. Aversely. some say that the dancers, young and unmarried, do the dance to show off and meet other young unmarried people.

The traditional, old-fashioned, shop-lined sloping streets and winding staircases of the small town make the festival quite spectacular, and the dark atmosphere of the festival is often described as rather "creepy" to many people who have experienced it.

Aside from the dance, games, trinkets and other traditional foods and services are also offered from the tiny shops lining the streets. Special Japanese paper is a popular souvenir for visitors to this festival.

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