By Ryan Hata
Nestled in the most inaka place in Japan is the prefecture of Tottori. Tottori is known for having the least amount of people and on most days, the streets of Tottori City can be compared to a ghost town. However, over a three day period in August, the street of Wakasa is filled with an enormous amount of bodies prompting locals to wonder, where did all these people come from?
The event that attracts so many people to Tottori City is the Shan Shan Matsuri. The festival features many people dancing in yukatas holding colorful umbrellas with bells surrounding the brim. The origin behind this dance is that it’s supposed to be a rain dance, to help water the crops. As with many Japanese festivals, the Shan Shan Matsuri brings together many people from the community. Numerous schools, companies, and clubs gather members to dance in their groups. Once the groups are formed, they practice tirelessly three different “Shan Shan” songs to be performed at the festival. Groups begin to practice as early as June in preparation for the festival in August.
August 13th kicks off the Shan Shan Matsuri with an opening ceremony. August 14th is the main day of the festival. The groups dance in a parade-style fashion up the street of Wakasa, starting from the prefectural office marching towards Tottori Station. A ton of people come out of their houses and from around Japan to attend the event as it’s during obon when most Japanese people have time off work or school. The sidewalks are filled with a variety of Japanese food stands, games, and other vendors.
I have had the pleasure of attending this spectacular festival for the past three years. I really enjoy the camaraderie with fellow JETs. Since it is in the middle of August, it is a perfect time to introduce many of the new JETs to Tottori while also catching up with old friends coming back from summer vacation. It’s also fun watching and cheering on your friends who are partaking in the Shan Shan dances.
The festival concludes on August 15th with an hour-long fireworks show near the Sendai River. It’s a perfect way to end the festival, watching the immaculate colors from the fireworks while sipping on a nice cold beer.