Not praying, but a often repeated move in the dance (Photo: Denes Perlaky)

Tsuwano's Obon Dance 2024

A unique summer performance with more than 400 years of history

Denes Perlaky   - 2 min read
Venue : Tsuwano When : Mid Aug 2024

Tsuwano dance is a unique obon dance, in the small castle town of Tsuwano, Shimane, that has been performed for over 400 years. It is performed on the 15th of August every year, as their annual Obon dance. The dance itself is slow paced and has 21 steps to remember. Dancers in unique costumes gather at Tonomachi (meaning Samurai-district) in the old-town of Tsuwano before 8pm – with over 400 typically expected.

The Tsuwano dancers wear a black hood (that covers most of the face) and white headband, with a fan put into the headband. Their yukata has small bells attached to the sleeves, and has its own story.

History of the festival attire

The domain lord of Tsuwano was the Kamei clan from 1617 to 1868. Before coming to Tsuwano, they were situated in Tottori Prefecture. The Kamei clan wanted to take a nearby castle in Tottori. Because it was so well defended, Kamei ordered his man to dress up in this dark festival costume and danced ever year for 4 years beneath the castle.

In the 5th year, he ordered his soldiers to equip for battle, underneath their festive costumes. Upon hearing the familiar music, the unsuspecting guards came down to the town beneath the castle to participate in the festival. While the castle was unattended, the soldiers of the Kamei clan got in and quickly overpowered the castle. To celebrate this victory, the Kamei clan started this festival, 400 years ago, when they moved to Tsuwano.

Tonomachi, where the dance is performed, is about 15-20 minutes from the station, in the old town area.

Denes Perlaky

Denes Perlaky @denes.perlaky

A Hungarian in Japan (going on 3 years), researching rural tourism. I love living in a small town, discovering its history bit by bit. I lived in Yamaguchi city for 2.5 years, and I still go there once a month for work. Now I live in Shimane, but often travel for research to Ojika island in Naga...