Festivals & Events
A 400 year old community festival that draws thousands every summer.
Train: From JR Gifu station take the JR Takayama Line to Mino-Ota Station (about 35 minutes) and change to the local Nagaragawa Railway for Gujo-Hachiman. The station is a decent but pleasant walk from the town centre. Buses run hourly.
Bus: Most highway buses from Nagoya and Gifu stop at “Gujo-Hachiman Inter” and a smaller number stop at the more convenient “Gujo-Hachiman Jokamachi Plaza”.
Dances take place from July to September
The peak is in August during Obon.
Dances last from sunset to sunrise.
Obon (mid-August) is the period when traditionally people would return to their homes to reconnect with their families. The souls of ancestors were also thought to return at this time making it an important spiritual time. Dance parties and festivals would be held and many of them survive to this day, connecting an increasingly urban and disparate population with older communities.
The Gujo-Hachiman Odori is officially recognised as one of the three most important bon dances in Japan. It began during the Edo Period (1603-1868) by Yoshitaka Endo as a means of binding the people of Gujo together irrespective of class or status. As a result the Gujo Odori is famous for being welcoming to visitors and tolerant of inexperienced and downright incompetent dancing – the goal is to make friends and connect with people; it is not a talent contest.
There are 31 nights of dancing between July and September – and when they say nights they mean it: dancing from dusk to dawn – but the peak is a four night frenzy in mid-August. During this time tens of thousands of people gather in Gujo packing the streets and hotels.
There are ten recognised dances, each of which can be easily picked up by following your neighbour, though classes are offered for the keen. Locals and enthusiastic visitors wear yukata and wooden sandals (gaeta) but there is no dress code. There are a number of dance locations around the town in the vicinity of important shrines and temples, shifting according to a well-publicised schedule. Gujo’s compact centre means you’re never far from the party.