Bon Odori Dancing Festivals in Tokyo

ByJason Gatewood
Jul 27, 2018

Bon Odori Dancing Festivals in Tokyo

Obon is an annual event where Buddhists and Confucians celebrate their ancestors.  Buddhists and many Japanese people in general believe that every year during Obon their ancestor’s spirits will return from “beyond the grave” for three days to visit with relatives they left behind.

The highlight of summer in Japan is the Obon holiday season, when Bon Odori festivals are held throughout the country; the largest and most well known of these sometimes all-night dancing festivals are attended by thousands of people from the regions in which they are held.

The dancing itself is easy–repetitive and slow–so there’s no need for performance anxiety. There are various types of Bon Dancing throughout Japan, but they are all pretty easy to learn. Just start by first observing the the dancers, then join and try to mimic their movements, and you should be dancing like a pro within 20 minutes. OK, perhaps not like a pro, but no need to worry. While they offer Bon Odori practice sessions before these events most people do not actually attend them  (most of the other participants don’t actually know how to do it either!).

July Events

 Ebisu Station Bon Dance

  • Date: July 27 & 28 2018 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Venue : Ebisu Station (Google Maps), West Exit Rotary
  • Attendees Expected: 60,000 people

This festival has been held every summer for more than 50 years in the Ebisu district.  When the Obon lantern is lit attendees will dance around to the sound of drums and flutes, in their comfortable summer yukata.  You can also find the usual assortment of food stalls and vendors.


Oraho Sengawa Summer Festival

  • Date: July 29, 2018 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Venue : Sengawa Station (Keio Line) (Map), South Exit Rotary and around shopping arcade
  • Attendees Expected: 15,000 people

This festival takes place in the Sengawa district of the city of Chofu, just on the border of Setagaya Ward, and a 15 minute train ride from Shinjuku station. You can follow bon dancers and taiko drummers around the narrow streets of the shopping arcade.

August Events

 Marunouchi Ondo Dai Bon Odori Taikai in Hibiya Park

This festival was first held in 1932, but  did not become and annual event until it was revived in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of Hibiya Park.

More information (Japanese)

Oedo Matsuri Bon Odori Taikai

Roppongi Hills Matsuri

More information (Japanese)

Tsukiji Hongan Temple Noryo Bon Odori Taikai

As this festival is located near the Tsukiji fish market, the “usual assortment” of food stalls offer particularly fresh and tasty treats!

Tsukiji Hongan-ji (Japanese)

Kinshicho Kawachi Ondo Bon Odori

The song and music in this festival actually originates from Osaka. Then called the Kawachi region, the flavor of Bon Odori spread throughout Japan and became popular in many places, including the Kinshicho district of Koto Ward.

— By Jason L. Gatewood

Photo: Wikipedia “盆踊りの音頭取り by Masa  (CC BY-SA 3.)

Photo: Wikipedia “Higashiyama Onsen -Bon-odori 01” by Yoichiro Akiyama (CC BY-SA 2.0) – Modified

About the author

Jason Gatewood subscriber

Our Tokyo based collaborator is a tech nerd, Japanophile, train nut, and a veritable fountain of information on Japan. His current goal is to watch Evangelion and actually "get it", sing every permutation of "Hotel California" at any karaoke gathering, ride every bullet train line, and sample all varieties of ramen throughout Japan. Catch more of his musings at ·

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