Akita dance competition celebrates launch of new Sakihokore rice variety

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Sakihokore Jr. Tsubasa Dancers perform enthusiastically on stage.

DAISEN, Akita — A dance competition to celebrate the full launch of a new variety of rice took place at the Omagari civic center in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, on Oct. 30.

Sakihokore rice, developed by the Akita prefectural government, started being sold nationwide from this fall. Competitors had to dance to the song “Sakihokore Ondo” that was produced to promote the rice to consumers.

A total of 27 groups applied to enter the competition by submitting videos, with entries split into a junior division for junior high school students and younger, and a general division. Five groups that made it through the selection process performed their elaborate dances in front of an audience of approximately 400 people. Judges for the competition included local superhero Chojin Neiger and television script writer Ganso Bakusho-oh, who was born in Noshiro in the prefecture.

The junior division was won by the Sakihokore Jr. Tsubasa Dancers, a group of 13 fifth-graders from Sakae Elementary School in Yokote, Akita Prefecture. JAL Furusato Ouen-tai, a group of Japan Airlines cabin attendants from Tokyo, won the general group. Each participant received 50 kg of Sakihokore rice, the equivalent of a years’ supply.

The junior contest winners had learned about the new rice variety at school, and decided to participate in the competition after encouragement from their teacher. They started practicing from July, and struggled with some of the complex moves. Each student in the group worked hard on their entry, continuing to practice at home during their summer break. They choreographed some of the dance moves themselves, and made their own costumes.

Nao Izumi, 11, who led the group, said: “We practiced many times and had a lot of fun dancing. I like Sakihokore rice even more now.”