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[Hidden Wonders of Japan] Unique Festival in Yamagata Prefecture Spreads Joy and Prosperity

Yamagata Prefecture celebrated kasedori for the first time in three years on February 11. Performers danced with all their might to bring safety and good luck.



Kasedori dance and chant on February 11 in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture. (©Sankei by Kozo Kashiwazaki)

Dancing wildly and chanting "Ka-ka-ka!" in straw kendai capes, performers are celebrating Kasedori, an ancient festival in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture. The unique tradition has continued since the 1620s, except for a brief hiatus during the Meiji period.

The yokai kasedori, which they are portraying, are messengers of the gods in the local folklore. For a bountiful harvest and good business, attendees sprinkle a bit of water on the kasedori. But to pray for protection from fires, they vigorously throw buckets of water at the kasedori, which also represent fire sparks. 

Yamagata Prefecture
A kasedori is being splashed with cold water. (© Kyodo)

Bringing People Together

This year in 2023, five hundred spectators gathered at Kaminoyama Castle to pray for safety and good luck. Kenichi Osawa, chairman of the Kaminoyama City Kasedori Folk Customs Preservation Society, introduced the 29 kasedori performers who had gathered from all over Japan. 

Then, one of the performers from Tokyo came forward and declared, "Praying for protection from fires, I swear to dance with all my might, without giving in to the temptation of drink or succumbing to the strong cold winds from the Zao Mountains." As the other kasedori performers appeared, the onlookers splashed them with water, making them shake and squeal.

Kasedori braving the cold. (© Kyodo)

Takahiro Sakurai, an office worker from Yamagata City, commented: "I came again this year. They [the performers] look like they're having a lot of fun dancing. It's really interesting to watch." 

The festival also welcomed visitors from overseas. Joel Paxton, a tourist from Australia said, "We don't have a festival like this in Australia. It's really fun." Another sightseer, Stephanie Carr said, "It's very special," visibly enjoying it. "I guess it's unique to this place."

Performers are wearing their iconic capes. (© Sankei by Kozo Kashiwazaki)


(Read the related Japanese article.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun


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