Summer Special: Gujo All Night Dancing
We were a little interested, but none of us really felt like going for a 75+ minute drive to another town to walk around a festival and go home.
It was already 10pm and we’d spent the day at an outdoor art/sculpture park and hiking up to a little waterfall in humid 95 degree summer heat. When we put out the idea of just hanging out at our place & skipping the festival, our friend basically told us he would pick us up in 10 minutes and we’re going to the festival.
We argued amongst ourselves for a couple minutes about who should have been more stern about staying in for the night, but in the end, we were really glad he didn’t let us skip the festival, and I’m still not sure how we made it from that moment around 10pm until the sun was starting to creep up at around 4:30am, but we did it!
We picked up another friend, the 5 of us grabbed some conbini coffees, and hit the highway. When we made it to the town of Gujo, we parked and walked a good 15 minutes to the center of town where the festival was going on and by then it was around midnight, but the festival was going on in full-effect even after we left:
There was en eclectic mix of people here, young children to grandparents, and everything in the middle. Many different fashion styles, too; from yukata to cosplay to jeans & t-shirts – but most people were dressed in the traditional summer kimono (yukata) and wooden sandals (geta), and all seemed to be in good cheer. At first glance, it looked like a block long line dance that ran up & down both sides of the street, but after a few blocks of walking, I realized just how different this festival was. There were 2 streets involved in the dance, and they crossed each other. The dancing went in a line up 1 side of the street, around the corner onto the other street for a block, around a post in the street and back down the opposite side of the street to where both streets intersect, then up the first street further, around another post, back down along the other side, around the corner again to the shorter side street, and back to the main street and down the other side, all in an enormous cross shaped oval. If you were dancing, you were always facing the people across the street from you as everyone moved to their left.
In the center where the streets crossed was a small stage holding 6-8 people who were providing the live traditional music and singing for the entire night. There are several set dances, one for each song, that everyone seemed to know, and everyone dance the same routine, but in their own way, some very neatly, some more casually. It was a very traditional & historical event, yet it felt very casual, easy going, and genuinely friendly.
Here’s a short video I took at the Gujo Summer Dance if you want to get a little better idea of what’s happening.
Of course there were the obligatory food stalls with shaved ice (kakigori かき氷), takoyaki, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, etc., and plenty of places to pick up cold fruity drinks & ice coffees to keep you cool & awake. The slightly higher elevation and night-timing helps with the heat, too.