Morioka's Sansa Odori

The world's largest drum and dance parade

Early
Aug
Venue: Chuodoori street When: Early Aug 2021

The festival is one of the top five festivals of the Tohoku (northeastern Japan) region--and it is easy to see why.

The main event is the massive parade of over three thousand drummers, representing taiko groups created by schools, companies, organizations, and the over twenty taiko groups which call Morioka home. The number of so many drummers playing at once is a world record. Lines of performers are only separated by the occasional parade float or banner introducing what's next.

Most groups wear their own choice of colorful and stylish traditional wear, but a decent number made the festival even more festive with anime and video game character costumes, dressing as dalmatians (2014) or mixing some random fun. Even those not in the parade are still able to participate.

At one moment during the festival, a float comes with instructors encouraging everyone to step into the street and dance together. Otherwise, a giant circle dance party after the parade is a Sansa Odori tradition. Special performances, lessons, and related events take place in front of JR Morioka Station and community halls around town during the four-day festival. Japanese and English event schedules, as well as volunteer staff, are on hand to assist.

As a festival, Sansa Odori is just a few decades in the making, but from a historical perspective, it is inseparable from the city. Centuries ago there used to be a horrible demon that tormented the local people. The people prayed to the deity of Mitsuishi Shrine for help. The deity heard their cries and captured the demon. The people celebrate this feat with music and dance which has been carefully passed down from the Nanbu clan. The Sansa Odori dance is complex and dynamic in movement. It is visually and audibly a very entertaining festival in an exciting city with much to keep you busy for several days. The dance has been designated one of Morioka's Intangible Cultural Properties. Definitely worth a special trip, the Sansa Odori Festival is not to be missed!

Past festival report

Morioka Sansa Odori

Morioka Sansa Odori

Aug 1st - 4th 2017

The largest drum parade in Japan

1 Free

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and promoting sake overseas for the government of Fukushima. Justin now does tourism promotion in Sendai, the gyutan capital of the world.

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Elena Lisina 2 months ago
Sounds really great! I plan to visit this festival and can't wait when pandemia is over.