Fukushima Waraji Festival
At the heart of Fukushima City is Mt. Shinobu. Atop this hill is Haguro-jinjya Shrine, where the traditional winter rite of the Shinobu Dawn Procession has been carried out every February for 400 years.
In the dawn procession, a 12m long giant waraji straw sandal (one shoe) is offered to the shrine and strung up to a pillar on the shrine grounds, to pray for strong and healthy legs and a stable gait. In the Fukushima Waraji Festival, which hails from this dawn procession, the other sandal is made as an offering to complete the pair, and pray for further health and safety when walking. It has been held in August every year since its inauguration in 1970.
In 2019, the festival was held for the 50th time, undergoing a major renewal to become a festival of live performances and singing, and has continued until this day.
The modern Fukushima Waraji Festival, takes place over 3 days, over the weekend of the first Friday in August. On the first two days, companies and community groups dance the ‘Waraji Odori’ dance to a live performance of traditional drums and flutes, parading the giant waraji straw sandal down the main street. On the third day, the giant waraji straw sandal is then offered to the Haguro-jinjya Shrine on Mt. Shinobu.
Waraji Dance Song
The biggest difference from the Waraji Festival before its renewal is that the entire festival moves with the live music performed by a large number of people. With reference to the rhythm of the “Fukushima Bon Dance Song” that has been passed down in Fukushima since ancient times, the “Waraji Dance Song” that Koseki Yuji composed has been rearranged, and new songs such as “Waraji Taiko Drumming” have been added. A huge ensemble that uses traditional instruments from the Tohoko region, such as flutes and drums, is a major feature of the current Waraji Festival. We asked professional percussion players, Japanese drum players, and flute players to arrange and play the music, making it dynamic festival music with performances like never before.
Waraji Dance Song
While following the story of the Waraji Festival, we have created a dance such that anyone, young or old, can enjoy dancing to live music according to their level. While holding a ring called a “Waranowa” in both hands, the dance is characterized by the movement of the lower body, giving the image of healthy legs. Based on the standard movements, effectively using Waranowa has made it a dance that anybody can enjoy participating in. In addition, colorful, suitable to the festival costumes are worn. Based on this, we want to create dances and costumes that can only be found in Fukushima, that people all over the world want to dance to.