Traditional Summer Festivals in 2 Nagano Cities Back in Full Swing Post-Pandemic

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants in identical happi coats dance in the Nagano Binzuru festival in Nagano City on Aug. 5. Right: Participants in the Matsumoto Bonbon festival perform in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Aug. 5.

NAGANO — A pair of traditional summer festivals exemplifying the season’s events took place Aug. 5 in the downtown areas of Nagano and Matsumoto cities in Nagano Prefecture — the Nagano Binzuru and the Matsumoto Bonbon.

The number of participants in both festivals clearly spiked from last year, as measures to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading had been drastically relaxed, and helped heat up the summer fun in the two cities.

The famed Nagano Binzuru festival dance parade began at 6:30 p.m. Amid occasional showers, participants performed a dance while sporting identical happi coats — traditional Japanese garments — and other costumes as they paraded through Chuo-dori main street in the central parts of Nagano City.

This year, the festival was held under circumstances similar to 2019, before the start of the pandemic, and 3,883 participants made up 87 groups that took part in the dance-based parade. Though the number was lower than the about 10,000 in some 200 groups in 2019, it represented a sharp rise from 849 in 28 groups in 2022.

Participants last year were obliged to wear masks. That decision was left up to personal choice this year, so many of the participants opted not to have them on while dancing, allowing onlookers to see their smiles.

A 51-year-old woman participated in the dancing parade for the first time in four years in a group of her coworkers from Ringyo Kasahara Zoen, a landscape gardening company based in the city.

“I had forgotten some parts of the dance, and it was hard to get the moves down again,” she said. “But I enjoyed it so much because I was able to dance for the first time with coworkers who joined the company during the novel coronavirus crisis.”


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants in the Matsumoto Bonbon festival perform in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Aug. 5.

Matsumoto Bonbon festival dancing began at 5:30 p.m. While a fun song with the lyrics “Bonbon Matsumoto, bonbonbon … ” played, participants held uchiwa Japanese fans in both hands and performed the dance.

About 5,700 people in 114 groups, comprising coworkers from local firms and students of area schools, took part. The number of participants shot up from 2,150 in 43 groups last year.

On the day, the temperature rose to 36.0 C, the highest this year for the city. While the heat continued into the evening, participants kept things rolling as they danced until the end of the festival. They drank water each time a song ended and paraded along about a 2.6-kilometer course south of Matsumoto Castle.

“Not only the dancers, but also the entire local community got excited. We danced in unity,” said a 34-year-old employee of a printing company in the city who took part in the festival with colleagues.

Elementary school students Ririka Ogura, 10, and her brother Rikuto, 8, who danced together with family members, smiled and said though it was difficult to synchronize the timing of the dance moves, they enjoyed raising their voices in excitement.