There are many grand bon odori festivals (a dance performed during Obon, a designated time to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors) throughout Japan but if you are seeking something that is smaller scale and organized for the locals primarily, the Hokkai Bon Odori Festival may be the right choice for you. The celebration takes place in the city of Mikasa from August 13th through the 15th and culminates with a fireworks display on the last day.
It is said that one of the most famous Japanese dance songs, Hokkai Bon Uta (北海盆唄) originated in the city of Mikasa. Dancers gather around a large scaffold measuring 32 feet tall and dance to this song. The event takes place at Mikasa-chuo Park near the Mikasa City Hall.
Another song which can be heard during the festival is Soran Bushi. The song accompanies bon ordori events in many parts of Japan, not just in Mikasa and it has its own dancing styles that date back many generations. The dance moves depict ocean waves, fishermen dragging nets, pulling ropes and lifting luggage over their shoulders. This dance is taught in many schools across Japan as part of the curriculum.
During regular intervals of the dance, the words: “DOKKOISHO!” “DOKKOISHO!” “SORAN!” “SORAN!” are called out. Those words were used in the past to encourage the fisherman while they worked.
Although the larger scale festivals draw massive crowds both locally and from abroad, the Hokkai Bon Odori Festival preserves the local flair and intimacy of the past.
To reach the Mikasa-chuo Park, take the Super Kamui train from Sapporo to Iwamizawa Station. From there switch to the Hakodate line and exit at Minenobu Station. The Mikasa-chuo Park is a 15 minute taxi ride from this point.