Join JPA Bon Odori Teams and Practice Sessions

JPA has launched a new project to present Bon Odori in New York City!

Do you know what Obon is? Obon is one of the Buddhist rituals during August 13-16 every year in Japan. It is believed that the souls of ancestors return to the family homes. This Obon period also becomes de facto national holiday, so many people go back to their hometowns and enjoy the time with their family and festivities! Bon festivals happen all around in Japan, and one of the highlights for these festivals is “Bon Odori.” (Bon Dacne)

Bon Odori can be divided into two categories. One of the categories is the standards that are known virtually anywhere in Japan. These music and dances are introduced  by the National Bon Odori Preservation Association in Japan and anyone can use them to dance. The other category is regional specific music and dances. Usually these regional specific Bon Odori dances have hundreds of years of history, so only the locals can participate in the dance circle and tourists can watch them perform. Some of them are recognized as Japan’s national or regional intangible heritages.

Among the hundreds of these regional specific Bon Odori dances, there are those called “The Big Three Bon Odori.” They are: Nishimonai Bon Odori (Akita prefecture), Gujo Odori (Gifu prefecture) and Awa Odori (Tokushima prefecture). These dances are considered as special regional Bon Odori and two of them are only performed by the trained locals. However, JPA obtained a special permission to teach these dances from each of the regional preservation associations and we will have practice sessions various Bon Odori events!

Big Three Bon Odori

The Nishimonai Bon Odori (西馬音内盆踊り)  is held every year from August 16–18. It is a symbolic dance to show proper respect and gratefulness to one’s deceased ancestors. It is ranked as one of the top 3 bon dances in Japan.[citation needed] It began as a harvest dance in Nishimonai in about 1280. In 1601 the lord of Nishimonai, Onodera Shigemichi, burned his castle after a defeat and the people danced among the ruins to remember their lord. These two dances were merged in the late 18th century to form the dance’s last incarnation which (despite attempts to stop it in the early 20th century) continues to this day. It is the biggest festival of the year, drawing people from all over Tohoku, and the country at large

The week before the festival all of the shops on the Bon Odori street open up and display traditional hanui (端縫) patchwork kimono, amigasa hats and hikosa zukin masks.

The shops and food stands open at around 5. The dance begins as the sun goes down and continues until about 11.

(From Wikipedia, Ugo, Akita)


Gujō Odori (郡上おどり)  is a Bon Festival held every summer in Gujō, Gifu, Japan. The dance festival’s origins have been traced back to the Kan’ei era (1624–44), when it is believed to have originated as an exercise in social cohesion; it has been designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

The festival lasts thirty-two nights, from the middle of July to early September. During the four days of Obon in mid-August (August 13 to 16), dances continue all night. Gujō Odori has 10 kinds of dances. Kawasaki and Harukoma are very famous and easy to dance for beginners. The final song of every night is always Matsusaka. There is no difference between the cast and the audience, anyone can participate; therefore the dances attract many visitors. About 250,000 people during the four days of Obon and about 300,000 people every summer come to this small town, which has a population about 15,000 in Gujō Hachiman district, for the odori.

(From Wikipedia, Gujo Odori)


The Awa Dance Festival (波踊り,  Awa Odori) is held from 12 to 15 August as part of the Obon festival in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku in Japan. Awa Odori is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists every year.

Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians known as ren dance through the streets, typically accompanied by the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional obon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the streets.

Awa is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima Prefecture, and odori means dance.

Awa Odori’s independent existence as a huge, citywide dance party is popularly believed to have begun in 1586 when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa, the daimyō of Awa Province hosted a drunken celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle. The locals, having consumed a great amount of sake, began to drunkenly weave and stumble back and forth. Others picked up commonly available musical instruments and began to play a simple, rhythmic song, to which the revelers invented lyrics. The lyrics are given in the ‘Song’ section of this article.

(From Wikipedia, Awa Odori)


Bon Odori Classes & Events

JPA will hold lessons for each Bon Odori dance separately via online and in-person sessions (outdoor or indoor spacce).  If you are interested in learning or joining our Bon Odori team, pleaes contact us.

Gujo Odori online class (once a week) starts on Friday, August 5th and ends on September 23rd, 2022.  

Every Friday 7 PM – 7:45 PM

There are 10-song dance moves of Gujo Odori. You can learn 2 or 3 songs per class.

(Note: Towards the end of the class, because of the popular demand from those who already had training in Nishimonai Bon Odori, they will have a practice round of Nishimonai Bon Odori dances. We are not teaching Nishimonai Bon Odori for this class, but Nishimonai Bon Odori practice is for their dance skill maintenance).

For the Gujo Odori class, you can join wearing Yukata or regular exercise clothing.

We will use Zoom for these classes.

If you would like to join, please write an email including your name and email address to:
Or please use our online contact form.