Summer is the festival season in Japan and one of the great festivals enjoyed by both locals and tourists in Sapporo is the Hokkai Bon Odori. The festival is held yearly around the mid-August timeframe.
Hokkai Bon Odori simply means Hokkai Bon Dance, a traditional Japanese festival that is celebrated with dance and drum performances to welcome the homecoming of ancestral spirits. The festival is a Japanese Buddhist observance that honors the spirit of ancestors that return once a year (during Obon) to visit their families. It is one of the most important events in the year, and during this time most family members get together to honor the dead.
Each region has its own local dance and music. Most regions typically dance in a circle around the yagura (a high wooden scaffold that is used for musicians and singers). Many parents bring their children to the festival and from 18:00 to 19:00 as there is a children's dance session guided by the parents. Following this until 21:00, the Hokkai Bon Odori will continue as older children and adults join the dance. The dance is not hard to learn. It is slow and easy to pick up. All visitors are welcome to partake in the Bon Odori circle by simply following the person in front of them.
At the festival, you will find many people wearing yukata, a traditional Japanese garment worn in the summer. Despite the many layers, the flowing sleeves are well suited for dancing.