• Japan In Focus

Folk dances added to UNESCO heritage list performed in Niigata Prefecture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Ayako-mai dance is performed in a culture hall in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Nov. 13.

KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata — Two folk dances from Niigata Prefecture that have been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list were performed in Kashiwazaki in the prefecture on Nov. 13.

The audience enjoyed the Ayako-mai folk dance from Kashiwazaki, as well as Dainosaka, a Bon Odori summer festival dance from Uonuma also in the prefecture, at the Artforet culture hall in Kashiwazaki.

The Council for Cultural Affairs selected 41 kinds of furyu odori, a set of traditional folk dances from across the country, including the two from Niigata Prefecture, to be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2020.

The Cultural Affairs Agency said on Nov. 1 that UNESCO’s evaluation body had recommended them for registration, and UNESCO made an official decision on Nov. 30.

Ayako-mai performers have invited guest performers of other furyu dances to hold joint events since 2016, and they were planning to invite Dainosaka dancers in 2020. However, the event was canceled for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were nervous performing our dance in front of many people, but it was worthwhile,” said Etsuo Hayashi, 69, the head of the performing arts department of the Dainosaka no Kai performing group.

“I think it’s difficult to pass on [traditional performing arts] to the next generation in local communities. So we’d like to keep interacting with each other,” said Kazushige Seki, 72, vice president of Kashiwazaki city’s Ayako-mai preservation and promotion association.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Dainosaka is performed in a culture hall in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Nov. 13.