Owara Kaze no Bon: A Festival to Calm the Wind Gods *RERUN
On the north side of Japan's main island, in the foothills of the Hida Mountains, lies Yatsuo Town, Toyama Prefecture. Every year, the "Owara Kaze no Bon" Festival begins on September 1 and lasts for 3 days. During Owara Kaze no Bon, the people dance day and night, and the whole town livens up. The festival has a 300-year history here. It is thought to have begun with people seeking to appease the wind gods. The festival dances are sensual, graceful, yet proud and the dancers are boys, girls and young people under 30. Adults play traditional musical instruments such as the "kokyu" and "shamisen." Owara Kaze no Bon, signifies summer's end. This is the story of the people behind Japan's most tranquil festival.

Owara Dances

On September 1, the 3-day "Owara Kaze no Bon" Festival begins. Because the festival is for a good harvest, the men's dancing symbolizes the movements of a farmer - holding hoes and cultivating the fields. The women's dance symbolizes playing with fluttering fireflies. Within the dances are reflections of the lives of villagers in this mountain town.


The festival song is a local folk song called "Owara-bushi." The word "Owara" is always present. The meaning of the word "Owara" is unclear, but some say it comes from the word "┼Źwarai," meaning "a big laugh." The women all wear their straw hats down over their eyes. This style is thought to have come from the embarrassment dancers felt performing in front of others. It brings out the women's beauty and elegance. 11 regions participate in Owara, and dancers wear "yukata," a casual summer kimono. The groups of dancers each have different yukata colors and patterns. Only those who have fully mastered the dance are allowed to wear these yukata. The kids of Yatsuo grow up in admiration of these dancers.

Eel beds

The houses of Yatsuo line the beautiful stone-paved streets. A certain house is only 3.3 meters wide -- quite narrow -- but it stretches way, way back. It's about 30 meters from the entrance to the room furthest in the rear. In Japan, these long narrow houses are called "eel beds." The reason the house is like this goes back over 170 years. At the time, taxes were determined based on the width of houses, so everyone started building houses long and narrow. Wider houses had walls built inside to split them in half. This resulted in rows of houses separated by just one wall.