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During early Aug., JR Yamagata Station has a Hanagasa Matsuri billboard above the wicket as you get out.
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Yamagata Station also has a Hanagasa info counter set up during the festival. You can pick up a map of the parade route.
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Yamagata Station's exit has hanagasa (flower hat) decorations.
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You can buy your own hanagasa and join in the festival.
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Held since 1963, the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri festival is held annually during Aug. 5-7. It is an evening parade of dancers using a hanagasa (flower hat) held during the three evenings from 6 pm to 9:30 pm.
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When I arrived during lunch time on Aug. 7, 2009, a group of hanagasa dancers held a PR demonstration right inside Yamagata Station as you see here.
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It is a folk dance characterized by the hanagasa, or flower hat, which is held with both hands and swung left and right, above the head, etc. The festival originated as a rice-planting prayer for a good harvest.
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They dance to the beat of taiko drums and the prerecorded folk tune of Hanagasa Ondo singing, "Yassho, makasho!"
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The artificial red flowers on the hats symbolize the safflower, the city flower.
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It's possible to stopover in Sendai and take a day trip to Yamagata to see this festival. However, if you want to stopover in Yamagata during the Hanagasa Festival, make reservations early especially for budget hotels.
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri
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By 5:30 pm, a good crowd of people lined the parade street stretching for 1.2 km. The parade route is a 10-15-min. walk from Yamagata Station. It was lot more crowded than the first time I saw this festival years ago.
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The parade starts at 6 pm, and it took about 10 min. to reach where I was.
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A total of about 120 groups (10,000 people) dance over the three evenings. If you want to see a certain group, you'll have to check the parade schedule. Also, a different celebrity guest also dances each evening.
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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Paper lanterns written with "Yama-gata-hana-gasa-ma-tsu-ri."
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Sometimes we see floats.
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This is one of the main and best dance groups. They all dance to a song called "Hanagasa Ondo." A recording of the song is repeated continuously through the loudpseakers. 花笠音頭
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The first few groups of dancers were the best.
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Lovely Yamagata hanagasa dancer.
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Photogenic Yamagata hanagasa dancer.
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An average of 300,000 tourists watch the parade per evening.
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Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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Miss Hanagasa 2009. There are four of them.
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Many dance groups were sponsored by large companies, and the company name or logo was prominently displayed on the clothing. It really is a long advertising parade.
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I don't mind advertising, but I was upset to see a 100-meter long dance group advertising a phone company. They thus took a long time to pass by. (No photos of them here.)
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School kids were also in the parade.
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Female taiko drummers on trucks.
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This is at the end of the parade route which had a nice illuminated gate overhead.
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It was drizzling off and on, so the road was wet. The shiny road made the shot look more dramatic together with the backlight.
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Cheerleaders too
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It was a good size crowd despite the drizzling rain, but it wasn't not horrendously crowded. It was pretty easy to get around and find a new spot to watch the parade.
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Yamagata maiko
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Yamagata maiko
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This is actress Eri Watanabe (b. 1955) who is from Yamagata. She gave a memorable performance in the 1996 movie, "Shall We Dance?"
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Actress Eri Watanabe in Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri on Aug. 7, 2009.
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Military-style male dancers.
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Miss Hanagasa
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Then there was this group of sexy Yamagata hanagasa dancers. Holy smoke, look at that cleavage, something you never see with a yukata.
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Miniskirted yukata
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The final group was led by the four Miss Hanagasa. Anybody could dance in this final group.
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Also see my YouTube video here.
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Miss Hanagasa 2009.
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Miss Hanagasa 2009.
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Amateur hanagasa dancers.
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"See you next year." The parade ends at around 9:30 pm at the end of the parade route. But it ends earlier if you are at the midway point instead. There was enough time for me to catch the last train back to Sendai at 9:46 pm.
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Cop cars block the parade road.
 
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