Dan Flying Solo

Pilgrimages, blacksmiths, and festivals: Nine traditional experiences you can enjoy in Kochi, Japan

Yosakoi dance festival and museum, Kochi City

Every August the city of Kochi comes alive for the Yasakoi dance festival with some 300 groups performing to crowds of thousands. The streets and corners of the city are taken over, as competitions to crown the best play out on domestic news channels.

Dating back to 1954, the festival was a chance to bring everyone together after a painful time. It’s blossomed and grown over the years, and now takes place worldwide, although it originals hail from Kochi. Elaborate costumes and well-rehearsed routines are more significant and bolder than when the festival first started, but the rules remain the same.

The dance must use the Naruko, a type of clapper within the dance. The music can be as wished but must include part of the original song. Also, a vehicle acting as a float must accompany the group playing the music. The dance groups can be up to 150-strong, and this makes for a flurry of colour and music over the days the event runs.

If you don’t visit Kochi during the festival, but want to learn more about the Yosakoi, a brand new museum is now open, and although a lot of the information isn’t in English, guides can help, or you can just have a go at the dance in the ‘classroom’, see the bright costumes, and watch performance videos from years gone by.

Inside the Ekin Museum

Ekin Museum and Festival, Akaokacho

The Ekin Museum offers an insight into the artwork and life of Hirose Kinzō (also known as Ekin), a disgraced official painter whose career turning into something quite interesting after his royal downfall.

I didn’t really plan on visiting the museum, but it’s quite a fascinating story. Ekin was born into a working-class family in Kochi but eventually wound up as a head painter for the important family at the height of the Tosa Domain. He was accused of forging work, and fired from his role, then disappearing from the public eye for ten years.

Eventually, he reappeared with this very unique, and sometimes quite disturbing artworks, projecting multiple scenes from one story onto one large canvas.

While copies of the works can be seen in the museum year-round, In July, a festival takes place on the streets of Akaokacho, where the original paintings are taken outside and illuminated by candlelight in the traditional way. Locals and regional tourists especially flock for this eerie evening of arts and entertainment, so if you find yourself in Kochi in July, check out the festival dates to join in.

There is so much more to do in Kochi, with nature, rivers, forest and striking coastline being the main draw to the prefecture. But, with this list, I hope I’ve highlighted some of the more traditional cultural experiences you can have to compliment your water-sports and adventure activities, because it’s these moments that create the best memories!

Sara Lassiter

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