Facts about Yatai and Bon dance in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Facts about Yatai and Bon dance in Japan

By Guidable Writers Jul 30, 2017

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Spanish Chinese (Traditional)


As the summer has come, it is time for you to go to Japanese Matsuri! Matsuri is held during Obon season. In a Matsuri, you will see people dancing, and selling food in a shop stand. So what exactly are they doing? Today, we are going to talk about the two major element of Matsuri: Yatai and Bon dance.


What is Yatai?

Yatai is a small, mobile food stall in Japan. The typical things they sell are foods such as noodle or any other foods. The yatais can be translated directly into ‘shop stand’. Seeing different yatai is the major acitivity in a Matsuri, so if you are going to a Matsuri (festival) you are basically going to see the Yatais and buying food from the Yatai. Usually you are going to spend 400 to 500yen in a Yatai, so I recommend you to set a budget of how much you can spend in a Matsuri!


The stall is set up in the early evening on pedestrian walkways and the festivals during summer season, typically during obon season. The Yatai has already existed back to the 17th century, but Yatai became popular and wide spread in the Meiji period.


If you go to any summer obon festivals (matsuri), you will see many yatais waiting for you. There are different kind of yatais, so I am going to explain what kind of yatai you may see!


1.Food stand


Food stand is the most popular type of yatai that you can see during Matsuri. You may see people selling okonomiyaki, fried noodles, soda, and any other different kind of foods. They usually cost you 400yen to 600yen, which you might feel a little bit expensive considering the size you are able to eat. However, if you want to feel the real Omatsuri culture, I really recommend you to buy it, and eat it while you are walking in the omatsuri.


2.Game stand


Apart from food stand, you may also see a lot of game stands. You are able to play various different type of games, such as shooting, and throwing darts. If you are able to hit the target, you will be able to get a price. If you are super lucky, you might be able to get a PS4 or 3DS, but usually the store manager makes the game extremely difficult so that you are less likely to get the price.


3.Lucky Draw Stand


During Omatsuri, Japanese children are desperate of going to the lucky draw stand. In a lucky draw stand, if you drew the lucky number, they will give you special prices, such as rare trading card or video games. Usually 1 draw cost you 400 yen to 500 yen, which is expensive as the possibility for you to get a price is almost 0. There was one Japanese Youtuber trying to draw all the tickets in the shop in order to prove if they really have the chance to win a lottery. As a result, they found out that there was no winning number in the stand!


By now, I think you have known what you can see in the Yatai, and what kind of activity you can do at Matsuri. Next, I am going to tell you about the Bon Dance, a traditional dance that you can see people dancing around the fire during the Obon festival.


What is Bon Dance?



Bon dance is one of the major events that takes place during the obon. As obon is a day to commemorate the death of one’s ancestors, Bon dance is also a event to welcome the spirits of the dead, although the act of Bon dance can be interpreted in different ways according to the culture of the region.


Bon dance (bon odori in Japanese), is a style of dancing performed during Obon. It is a communal dance that performed by men, women, and children alike while moving in a circle. Originally a Nenbutsu folk dance to welcome the spirits of the dead, and the style differs among regions. Each region has a local dance, as well as different music. There is various explanation of this bon dance, but the dance is performed all over Japan in order to receive spirits and send them off again.


There are three big scales Bon dance in Japan that you must try it out once. The Nishimonai Bon Odori takes place in the town of Ugo, which iwas formed by combining the former town of Nishimonai and six other surrounding villages in Akita Prefecture. The Nishimonal Bon ODori is composed of just two different dances performed by the locals. In the Nishimonai Bon Odori, they use the taiko drums and shamisen when they perform it. The dancers wear the Kimono which is called hanui, which are worn with large, semicircular straw hats called amigasa.


Gujo Odori can be seen in Gifu Prefecture dates back over 400 years and lasts over 32 nights from july to September. Awa Odori takes place in Tokushima Prefecture, Awa Odori is one of the most famous dance festival with spectators lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the dances who parade the city streets.


Where you can try Bon Dance?


You can try it in Bon Dance in summer Omatsuri. Bon dances are usually held at Shrines, temples and public squares. Bon odori festivals only last a few hours. If you want to look for a place where you can enjoy Bon dance, you should go to the shrines or any local community to ask for information. This is really a good opportunity for you to try this unique Japanese culture.


I think by now, you have learnt about what are the yatais and bon dance! If you are living in Japan, I think it is really a good opportunity for you to learn a lot from the Japanese festivals, because you can touch and feel the acutual Japanese traditional culture. If you are interested in going to see the large scale bon dance, I really recommend you to do so, although they are pretty far away from Tokyo.