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The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival was first held in 1963 and today is a major festival in Tohoku, attracting over one million visitors during the course of the festival’s three-days. The hanagasa (花笠) is a hat embroidered with red safflowers and used by the performers in their traditional dance. The parade, led by brightly decorated floats, consists of 100 groups, each about 100 strong, moving down the main street of Yamagata City to shouts of “Yassho! Makasho!”—originally the calls of workers when pounding on the dirt during irrigation work on the outskirts of Yamagata Prefecture.
Traditionally the dances were smooth and highly synchronized, but over the years the performances have become increasingly daring. In the words of the organizers: “The true joy of a festival can be discovered upon actually participating. Spectators are welcome to join the “Hanagasa Circle Dance” held near the parade goal in front of City Hall, as well as the “walk-in corner” near the tail of the parade.”
The parade starts from 6pm and lasts until 9:30pm each evening. It goes in a straight line down the main street of Yamagata City for about 1.5 kilometres, starting at the intersection near Daini Koen and moving towards Bunshokan to the north.