This page introduces Gujo-hachiman town in Japan.
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Since October, 1998.
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Gujo-hachiman is located almostly on the center of Japan. This is not so big town. But it has very beautiful faces. I introduce this attractive town and intresting dance festival in summer called Gujo-odori.
I was not born in Gujo-Hachiman or I have not lived in Gujo-Hachiman. But my relatives are living there. And I have visited many times from my youth. So it is the most familier town for me.
What is Gujo-hachiman ?
What is Gujo-odori (Gujo dance) ?
Year 2015 Gujo-odori Schedule
Links about Gujo-hachiman (in English)
The Map of Central Gujo-hachiman (in English)
Gujo-hachiman is a small town located almost the center of Japan. The name of its official administrative circle is "Hachiman-cho(Hachiman town), Gujo-shi(Gujo city), Gifu-ken(Gifu prefecture)". (See "the location of Gujo-hachiman".) This town has many historical buildings, traditional events or customs. So it is sometimes called "one of little Kyoto".
It has about 20,000 people and almost 200 square kilometers. The central Gujo-hachiman town is quite small; about 2 square kilometers. But this town has many attractive spots and traditions for sightseeing.
Gujo-hachiman can be called "the town of water". Many rivers are flowing through the center of the town and we can find many canals or streams as well. In the town, there are many springs to produce very clear water - most of them can be drunk.
Sougisui is most famous one among these. It is authorized to one of the clearest water in Japan by Japanese goverment. The name "Sougisui" means "the water of Sougi". Sougi was famous poet in the middle age of Japan. It is said that he loved this spring.
Central Gujo-hachiman town has about only 2-3 squared kilometers. But there are many temples and shrines in this small area. Most of them were built more than 200 yeas ago (during Tokugawa-shogunate period). There is a castle in the top of the mountain in the center of the town. This castle is called Hachimanjo. ("Hachiman" is from "Gujo-hachiman". "Jo" means "castle".) This castle is small but its structure is typical Japanese style. Not only these buildings, old streets originated more than 200 years ago are still remained in Gujo-hachiman.
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There are many types of Bon-odori (Bon dance) in Japan. Bon is a festival once a year when the spirits of the dead are appeased and usually it is from August 13 to August 16. It comes from Buddists' custom.(The word Bon is abbrevation of "Urabon'e" which came from "ullambana" in Sanscrit language.) People go to their ancestors' grave and pray in this season. And sometimes the dance festival is opened. It is called Bon-odori (It means "Bon dance"). Gujo-odori is a kind of such Bon-odori (Bon dance) and the most largest one in Japan. It has the history of more than 400 years. It also has strong history. On August 15, 1945, Japan losed the world war II. There was a speech by the Emperor at noon to announce it. But the night of that day, the dance was performed !
Gujo-odori is the festival on the assumption of joining from the outside. When the music is being played, anyone can join the dancing at any moment. All of them joins from the outside. Gujo-odori consists of 10 types of dancing. But the movement of dance is so simple that anyone can join dancing readily .So usually the number of dancers is much more than the number of sight-seers. This can be said to one of characteristic of Gujo-odori. It is the dance everyone can participate and the festival you can enjoy yourself !
In Summertime. Starting is almost in the middle of July. It is called Odori-hasshou-sai (Odori, hasshou, and sai mean "dance", "birth or beginning", and "festival", respectively. So it means "opening festival of dancing".) And the end date is usually in the 1st week of September. It is called Odori-osame.( The word "osame" has the sense of "termination". So it means "finale of dancing".) Between these two days, there are 30 nights when the dance is performed. Here is the Schedule of Gujo-odori on year 2015. The starting time is usually 8:00 p.m. and the ending time is usually 11:00 p.m.
But in Bon period ( from August 13 to August 16 ), it is special. Although starting time is the same, the ending time is 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. This is called Tetsuya-odori. (Tetsuya means "all-night". So it means "all-night dancing".) Tetsuya-odori is the largest attraction in Gujo-hachiman and sometimes more than 20,000 people visit for sightseeing in this small town in a day !
It is sometimes a park, the garden of a shrine, or sometimes in front of a building. But most of the places of dancing are streets in the town. The place to dance is changed every time. So I propose you to notice the sightseeing information. The Schedule of Gujo-odori also mentions the place of odori in each day.
Gujo-odori has ten kinds of dancing.
Kawasaki, Sanbyaku, Harukoma and Yacchiku are 4 popular dances. Usually these are performed in the following order. ( K:Kawasaki, S:Sanbyaku, H:Harukoma, Y:Yacchiku )
K - S - H - Y - K - S - H - Y -....
The remaining 6 dances are not so popular, which are Gengen-barabara, Sawagi (It means "noise"), Neko-no-ko (It meanse "Kitten".), Kocho-kawasaki (This is the older version of Kawasaki,) Gujo-jinku and Matsusaka. These are performed mostly only 1 time or 2 times in a night. Matsusaka is a speciall dance which is the final dance in each night.
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