September 7, 2008

Bay Cruise, Maiko Beach and The Yosakoi Dance Festival

We just finished off a terrific weekend. On Saturday night, Mike and Ilena got a night out and took an excellent dinner cruise in Kobe Bay aboard The Concerto. On Sunday, we took a family trip to the a great little nearby beach in Maiko, and we also checked out the outlet stores one town over in Tarumi. Tarumi was highlighted by a trip to the Lego Store, where the kids cashed out weeks of allowance savings for some pretty cool Lego sets.

But the best part of our weekend, and the theme that ran through all of the above activities was the Yosakoi Dance Festival. At each of our weekend activities, we randomly ran into groups of high energy dancers in beautiful colorful costumes. From what we were able to figure out after the fact, Yosakoi is a unique summer dance style that was started in Shikoku in the 1950's. It is varied, youthful, and totally fun. It also has a bit of an ESPN Cheerleading Festival vibe to it. Anyway, we ran across several different branches of the local Kansai dance festival throughout our weekend.

Ilena and Mike first noticed ornately clad groups of young people dressed in purple robes walking around the Kobe Bay area on Saturday night. When we got down to the boardwalk where we were embark on our dinner cruise, we saw 100s of different groups, all wearing different costumes, all practicing their moves before getting on the stage, which was backdropped by the Kobe Port Tower landmark. The cruise itself was really nice, but the unexpected highlight was definitely the dance festival.

Here are some videos of the Saturday night dance action down at Kobe Bay. It was really cool, and we sort of felt bad that the kids had missed it:

On Sunday, we decided to check out Maiko Beach. We had heard that Maiko is one of the nicest and cleanest of the nearby beaches. We had also previously got a peek of Maiko on our way to Awaji Island, a couple of weeks ago. It is set right next to the Akashi Bridge. Maiko Beach did not disappoint. It is a peaceful little gem, with calm waters and a nice setting. All within a half hour of Rokko Island. On this blazing hot day, it felt great to get away, take a dip and play at the beach.

Of course, this weekend, unbenowest to us, the park immediately next to the Akashi Bridge, which you pass through to get to Maiko Beach, was hosting its own Yasokoi Festival. The dancing was so colorful and high energy and happy! Every group had their own emcee, and most had flag-bearers whipping flags around behind the dancers. The dancing mixed in some traditional elements, but was mostly very fast-paced. And it was all set in a beautiful spot, backdropped by the Akashi Bridge.

Here are some videos of the dancing at Maiko:

After Maiko, we walked along the seaside promenade to the Marine Pia Kobe Outlets in Tarumi. We had heard there was a cool Lego Store there, and indeed there was. There was also a Nike Store, Eddie Bauer, Adidas, Levi, and a bunch of other good shopping and restaurants. Set by a pier, overlooking the water, it is a nice place to walk around too.

And of course, this weekend, they also had their own Yasokoi Festival!

Here the dancers warmed up by dance-parading down a short block, before heading to a stage overlooking the pier. Here are some videos from the parade:

What a fun thing to encounter completely randomly! The kids were totally entranced. (And we were too!) We all felt very lucky to have this fun musical theme running through our weekend.


jmgesq said...

Any idea what the different banners say? It's really remarkable. I can't think of anything equivalent anywhere else where that kind of event takes over every city in an area (or perhaps the country??). I don't think 4th of July parades are really similar!

The Kasdan Family said...

I think they are just the names of that particular team of dancers (or where they are from). The funny thing was this event was totally under-the-radar. We did not see it mentioned as a big event (actually at all) in any of the local listings for festivals in magazines or on-line. So we felt pretty lucky.

Lisa said...

Sounds like a wonderful, fun and exciting weekend! See you sooooooo soon!!!!!

Alexis Jacobs said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend. I didn't realize there was a beach that close. The festivals in Japan look so fun and interesting. The culture there just amazes me.