Kanzashi & the Yosakoi-bushi

by S. Minami

Harimayabashi, present day

One day during Edo period, a Buddhist priest named Junshin was in a small accessories shop at the foot of Harimaya bridge with strained look. He wanted to buy a present for his girl friend Ouma. He had been hanging around the shop for a long time so he was become the focus of public attention. At that time, there is a regulation that priests mustn’t fall in love with someone, so it was very weird that a priest was even in the accessories shop. Then suddenly he entered the shop again like he determined something and gripped one kanzashi (a long ornamental hairpin ; Japanese women had used it to have their hair dressed in traditional style,) and bought it while hanging his head shyly. When he came out the shop, his face was full of delight and satisfaction.

土佐の高知の  (In Kochi of Tosa)

はりまや橋で  (At Harimaya-bashi)

坊さんかんざし買うを見た  (A priest bought a kanzashi)

よさこい よさこい  (Yosakoi, Yosakoi)

This is a stanza of yosakoi-bushi, a traditional folk song from Kochi. This is a kind of parody and the melody of Yosakoi-bushi comes from one of kiyari (木遣り) -bushi : a song for the construction workers. They had sung as shout encouragement while carrying some big trees and rocks. During the construction of Kochi castle, this Kiyari-bushi was sung by people in Kochi. Then one day, a person saw Junshin buy a kanzashi and he felt that his action was very strange so started to sing what he saw to the melody of Kiyari-bushi. And gradually this song spread around and has come down people in Kochi until now. This is an origin of Yosakoi-bushi.

Yosakoi dancers

Most people can imagine Yosakoi Festival easily when they hear the word “Yosakoi”. It is a very big and energetic and powerful event in Kochi, held on August 9 to 12 every summer and on 9, very beautiful fireworks are displayed. It started in 1954 to dispell melancholy mood of a recession and encourage people. And the highlight of this festival is Yosakoi-dance. It’s a form of Bon Odori dancing and people dance with Yosakoi-bushi and naruko, a wooden clapper. The festival always accepts experimentation with music and dance, for example rock music, hip hop dance, gorgeous hairstyle and costume and so on. Each team has its own originality and ardour so we spectators never get bored. But there is a rule the basic tune of ‘Yosakoi-bushi’ be used in one form or another. After all, Yosakoi Festival has been developed as an original culture in Kochi and introduced other sensitivities and different values freely. And all of this has been brought up by the place “Kochi” which can accept a new and different world.

Kanzashi, sold by Hamako Company

There is a sweet ‘kanzashi’ which is named after the lyrics of Yosakoi-bushi. Hamakou ( the long-established company which runs the sweets shop, real estate and the hotel ) started to sell it in 1962 and it is always nominated as one of the recommended souvenirs in Kochi and now about 4million is made and sold in a year. It uses yuzu, a kind of citrus fruits and the special product in Kochi to express the bittersweet feeling of Junshin and Ouma’s love.

“We have been active to hand down the culture and the tradition in Kochi,” Yukihiro Hamada, the president of a company said, “recently people look so busy and don’t have any time to feel the seasonal change. I feel that they have been losing the minds which can enjoy the beauty of nature,” he continued strongly, “It is the sweets that can represent the beauty of season and nature. We want you in Kochi and you love Kochi to know the Kochi’s approaches and the worth of Kochi’s culture.”

The Yosakoi foundation is the thing that nothing can take the place of and filled with love for Kochi. Now Yosakoi-bushi is a basis of many present cultures and traditions in Kochi and so people have it in their own hearts, senses of value and the way of thinking. So this is the reason why Yosakoi-bushi is loved by people in Kochi.

Remembering the star-crossed lovers

Yosakoi-bushi has been loved for many many years and Junshin and Ouma’s love story has been loved, too. Unfortunately however, this love story didn’t have a happy ending. The rumor about them spread through the city due to Yosakoi-bushi and Junshin decided to elope with her. But immediately two were caught by the pursuers and punished because they broke the social rules.  Junshin was banished from the country and Ouma was exiled to a far-off to east and the lovers never met again.

This story is very very sad but beautiful story. People in Kochi have a warm-hearted feeling and sincerity which can feel the beauty of this tragic story. And Yosakoi-bushi would not have been popular if its birthplace were not in here Kochi. At first, I just wanted to write the article about a sweet, kanzashi, but gradually I’m sure that I feel closer to the essence of culture and tradition through Yosakoi-Bushi.

It is very life in Kochi!

Art of the Kayakuya: Fireworks

by Koike

Every August, at 7:00 pm on the eve of the Yosakoi festival, people wearing traditional yukata and waving uchiwa fans crowd the  banks of Kagami-river and  line Tenjin-bridge. They leave their houses very early to try to find best place for watching. Best place for watching what? To see the fireworks display on a summer evening at Kagami-river! The air is filled with excitement and  smells of sweat. They wait impatiently for the display to begin. It’s 7:30 now. With an announcement, the fireworks begin. The fireworks are fired off with various colors and roaring sound. The spectators utter few cries every time the fireworks are launched. Some people are opening their umbrellas because of the ash which falls from the sky. Continue reading Art of the Kayakuya: Fireworks

Furafu: Friend of Koinobori

by Saya

A car went through the lane, and a flag came into view. A shop was surrounded by private houses. I opened the door, the shop was jammed with big flags. Wherever I looked, there were big flags. Many famous characters which figure in history or are popular among children and adults were painted on these flags.

“I’m happy that you came, though it’s rainy today.” Continue reading Furafu: Friend of Koinobori