Home >> Japan Events,Japan Travel >> Yosakoi Soran Festival (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

When it comes to festivals in Sapporo, or the whole of Hokkaido for that matter, most people will probably only think of Sapporo Snow Festival.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of Yosakoi Soran Festival.   After all, not that many people will think of visiting Hokkaido in June.  Unless you’re Singaporean.

I often mention on this blog that June is really NOT the best time to visit Hokkaido.  The summer flowers aren’t really blooming.  The spring flowers are gone.  The snow is also gone (though it DID snow a little early June last year – Hokkaido’s weather is just freakish like that).   The rain and fog keeps coming.

But since the second longest school holiday in Singapore falls in the month of June, many Singaporean families really don’t have much of a choice.  So to Hokkaido in June we go.

Thanks to the fact that we were forced to visit Hokkaido in June, we discovered Yosakoi Soran Festival.

The first time we visited Hokkaido in June back in 2014, I didn’t know the festival existed.  So I had booked air tickets missing the festival by a day.  So when we were back in Hokkaido again in June 2016, I planned the trip AROUND the festival.  Booking ourselves in Sapporo during the weekend of the festival and fitting the rest of the trip around it.

When I tried to find more information about the festival online, I didn’t get very far beyond this English brochure from the official website.  But I wanted to know stuff like where are good vantage points to catch the festival; what are the tickets all about – do we really need tickets or is there a way we can catch the festival for free; if we didn’t buy tickets, what would we be missing out.. You know, stuff that kiasu Singaporeans try to find out (kiasu = Singlish for ‘afraid to lose’).

So fine.  If you can’t find ’em, write ’em.  Brace yourself… for the long-winded-BBM-style guide to Yosakoi Soran Festival.

What is Yosakoi Soran Festival about?

Don’t confuse Yosakoi Soran Festival with Yosakoi Festival which is held in Kochi prefecture.   Yosakoi Soran Festival was inspired by Yosakoi Festival, where teams of dances performed a routine that involved dancers using a pair of wooden clappers called ‘naruko’.

In Hokkaido’s Yosakoi SORAN Festival, the song that the teams used had to include a phrase from Soran Bushi, a type of traditional Hokkaido folk song.  You can read more about this fun fact here.

When is Yosakoi Soran Festival

The festival is held in early June each year, though the exact date varies from year to year.  But it always stretches from a Wednesday to Sunday.

As reference, below are the dates of Yosakoi Soran Festival for the past few years:

  • 7 – 11 June 2017
  • 8 – 12 June 2016
  • 10 – 14 June 2015
  • 4 – 8 June 2014

Below is a typical schedule for the Yosakoi Soran Festival (source):

From Wednesday to Fridays, performances only happen in the evening.  So you can do your usual sightseeing in the morning and afternoon, and hang around in the evening to catch the performances.  On Saturdays and Sundays, the performances take place throughout the entire days.

So if you plan to catch the festival but don’t wish to spend 5 whole days in Sapporo, the best time to be there is on the weekend.  But you can expect accommodation to be more expensive and to sell out faster than usual.  For e.g. when I tried to book Mercure Hotel Sapporo for that weekend, it was already sold out by January.

Odori Site

There are two kinds of performances happening at Odori Park site.  There is the parade that goes down the roads parallel to Odori Park all the way from 5-chome to 10-chome, and there is the stage performance at 8-chome.

Okay, let me explain this chome thingy.  Odori Park is a rectangular park that spreads out across several blocks.  1-chome is the block where Sapporo TV tower is.  And as you move WEST, each traffic light you cross will bring you to the next chome.

Below is the map from the official English brouchure:

Bringing back the event schedule from earlier, blue colour refers to stage performances, while green colour refers to performances on the parade route.

Ticketing

By large, Yosakoi Soran Festival is a FREE public event, where anyone can just catch the performances from the sidelines without tickets.

For the parade, the free viewing area spans from 9-chome to 10-chome.  So if you want to catch the Odori Park parades for free, park yourself at 9-chome or 10-chome.  Either roads to the North or South of Odori Park is fine – the performers will come down both roads concurrently.  Just find a spot by the road, sit on the kerb or stand around and you can catch the performances.

However, for visitors who prefer to be seated on spectator stands rather than sitting on the kerb along the parade route, you would need a purchase a ticket.  It cost 500yen per pax for each time slot (slightly less than 2 hours) during the usual performances.

However, you may notice that there are the tickets for Saturday Night Parade and Final Night Parade that cost 2000 yen instead of 500 yen.  This is because the Saturday Night Parade and Final Night Parade do not go to the free viewing areas at 9 and 10-chome.  Nevertheless, it is still possible to catch these two parades without a ticket – simply by standing right next to the spectator stands.

For stage performances, again you can either purchase a ticket to be seated on the spectator stand in front of the stage, or try to catch it for free by sitting on the grass lawn between the spectator stand and the stage.

However to get a seat on the grass lawn in front of the stage, you would need to queue.  There was a perpetual *long* queue of people waiting to get in, and they had to wait for people to come out before they could go in.   You won’t be able to see much of the stage if you are not either at the spectator stand or the grass lawn, because of barricades set up around the stage area and ushers who forbid people to stop around the stage area to watch as they need to keep the walkways free.

If you don’t wish to purchase ticket or queue to get into the free viewing area, there is a giant screen nearby where you can catch live telecast of what is happening on the stage.

Gallery

Below is a gallery of some of the performances we caught at the Odori Park site:

Fringe Activities

At 7-chome, there is an area where visitors can join in and learn some dances.  You can borrow a pair of naruko for free there.

And hang around the stage area where there will be people teaching the dance and you can just dance along!

Food Square

What’s a Japanese festival without food stalls right?  At Odori site, the food stalls are all concentrated at 6-chome, surrounding a common seating area.

Visiting with Kids

If you are there with kids, I would recommend you hang around 9-chome.  Because that’s where you can find playgrounds and toilets.

Funky! Susukino

During our trip, we were staying in Susukino district – about 4 blocks South of Odori Park.  So we managed to catch the Funky! Susukino performances that were held at the Susukino intersection.   Click here for exact location on Google Map.

Funky! Susukino is held on the Friday and Saturday of the festival, from 6 to 10pm.

Finding a space to catch Funky! Susukino was akin to getting a spot for the parade at Disneyland.  You just try to find a spot  to sit by the road – the earlier you arrive, the higher your chances of getting a good spot.

The section right in front of the stage would be the most ideal spot to catch the climax of the dance routines.  The later you are, the further from the stage you’ll be bumped to.  All the way till the junction where Round 1 building is.

We arrived at exactly 6pm, which multiple visits to Disneyland should have taught us was too late.  So we were standing near to where Round 1 was.

But standing at that end of the parade route also had its advantages, as the performers would gather in front of Round 1 building before they start their dance.  This is where you see the performers being candid, posing for selfies and waving to their friends in the audience.

This is also where the performers will give their pre-performance cheers.  Every group, before they start their performance proper, would do some kind of cheer at the start.

The flag bearers also often hung around at the back of the group, so we got pretty good views of the strong men waving the gigantic flags.

The dance routines will slowly move from the end where Round 1 is, to the end where the stage is.   So regardless of where you are sitting (or standing), you will be able to catch parts of the dances.

However, the most exciting parts of the routines tended to be towards the ending when the groups were at the area right in front of the stage.

And we often found ourselves looking at their backs when they were there.

Check out our photo gallery below for more photos from Funky! Susukino:

Other Performance Sites

There are actually 20 performance sites in total for the entire festival.  Below is a rough map from Yosakoi Soran Festival’s website:

Beside the Odori Park site and Susukino site that I have mentioned, other more relevant sites for tourists include:

On the above links, you will see a map of the exact location and performance timings for each site.

Official Websites

For more information on Yosakoi Soran Festival, check out their official websites:

Homepage | Facebook page | Twitter

If you have any more questions about Yosakoi Soran Festival, feel free to post them in the comments section and we’ll try out best to answer them!

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Linking up with…

This post is part of the following blog hops:

> City Tripping by Mummy Travels and Wander Mum
> Faraway Files by Untold Morsels, Suitcases and Sandcastles and Oregon Girl around the World

the author

Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.

23Comments

  1. Mummy Ed says:

    Wow, this is SOME festival!! I have not seen ANY festivals in Japan yet (whoops), so I think I should make it a point to try and see one sometime in this lifetime :p
    Mummy Ed recently posted…3M Young Wizards Science CampMy Profile

  2. What a fun, colourful festival. Always good to find a gap in the blog market and you’ve filled it wonderfully with a fact-packed guide for anyone visiting the festival. Well done!! Thanks for linking #citytripping
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) recently posted…City Tripping #69My Profile

  3. tots2travel says:

    Now this is one festival I have never heard of before. So thanks for sharing and opening my eyes to it. And don’t those little girls look adorable!
    tots2travel recently posted…Afternoon Tea – Colonnades at the Signet Library, Edinburgh (No Tots)My Profile

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes! The kids are so cute! I loved watching the kids especially. It was really nice to see them being so immersed in a local traditional festival at such a young age.

  4. Joyce says:

    😭 I happen to book our flight back on 6 June. How I wish I can extend a week.

  5. Wherejogoes says:

    Wow this is one major festival! So much going on and I love it that you can get some of the wooden clappers and join in. My children would love this – the parades, the music, the atmosphere. I’d never heard of this, thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

  6. Katy Clarke says:

    I love a colourful festival! We are headed to Japan in the next couple of years and I cant wait. Those kids are so cute! #FarawayFiles
    Katy Clarke recently posted…Faraway Files #24My Profile

    • bumblebeemum says:

      How exciting! I’m sure you would love Japan. I’m itching to go back, but I’ve kind of burned my vacation budget for a long time to come with our upcoming Scandinavia trip. >_<

  7. You’ve covered absolutely everything. Great guide! This looks like such a fun and colourful festival. My kids would really enjoy learning some of the dances themselves after seeing them. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) recently posted…Faraway Files #24My Profile

  8. What a colorful festival! I would love to visit Japan one of these days, I should have done it years ago when my brother was stationed there! #farawayfiles
    Christine | The Journey of Christine recently posted…Scenes from Lake Como, ItalyMy Profile

  9. Ruth says:

    Wow! This festival is full of color and energy. So, cool activities this unique can be found in Japan. I am not a fan of winter, so, I would like to visit during summer (maybe I will repent later). #FarawayFiles
    Ruth recently posted…The Most Romantic Place in Budapest: Vajdahunyad CastleMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Travelling in winter can be a pain. I love travelling in summer too. Long daylight hours, lighter luggage, easier drives.. But then again, we Singaporeans are pretty snow-deprived so occasionally we still like to travel in winter. :p

  10. Hilary says:

    I’ve heard that there are many amazing festivals in Japan in the summer! I love the photos of all the costumes and people, just wonderful! I’m hoping to get back there someday, and if I do, I’ll be using this handy guide!! #farawayfiles
    Hilary recently posted…Downtown Los Angeles Graffiti & Mural Walking TourMy Profile

  11. […] YOSAKOI SORAN FESTIVAL SAPPORO HOKKAIDO JAPAN | Bumble Bee Mum […]

  12. Kris says:

    Hi, I am planning a trip to Hokkaido from 19th May – 26th and below is my tentative itnary

    20th May – Fly into to Asahikawa and check in to Furano Natrux Hotel

    Thinking of going to Asahikawa zoo, ramen village and stay 1 night at Naturux Hotel

    Question is is the zoo worth to go during this May period? I have a 6 and 1.5 yr old kids hence the zoo looks interesting though

    21st May – Explore Furano and drive down to Sapporo and stay

    Question is will it be too rush to move on to Sapporo or i should stay 1 more night in Furano?

    22nd-23rd May – Sapporo/Otaru
    24th May – Lake Toya
    25th May – Chitose
    26th May – Depart for Tokyo

    For your advice on

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you go to the zoo and ramen village, it will be dark by the time you make the drive from Asahikawa to Furano. Will you be driving or taking the train? The road from Asahikawa to Furano is pretty rural and dark. I would suggest you spend the night at Asahikawa and do the drive the next day. When you drive from Asahikawa to Furano, you will be passing through Biei which is worth stopping a bit for some sightseeing at Panorama Road / Patchwork Road / Shirogane Onsen. But if you do the drive at night, you’ll be going right past Biei as it’ll be too dark to see anything, which is a bit of a pity.

      If you’re visiting with kids, the zoo is a pretty nice spot to spend the first day, especially if it’s after a long flight. The kids would enjoy it.

      Another thing I would recommend is to take a drive from Asahikawa up to Takinoue Park for shibazakura and Kamiyubetsu for the tulips. Your dates are just right, and it’s again a pity to be in Asahikawa and not drive up to have a look. You can read more here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/02/10/hokkaido-best-places-to-visit-in-early-summer-sample-itinerary/

      This is what I would suggest for you:

      20 May: Asahikawa (visit zoo and ramen village). Stay Asahikawa
      21 May: Asahikawa (day trip to Takinoue & Kamiyubetsu). Stay Asahikawa.
      22 May: Asahikawa – Biei (patchwork road, panorama road, shirogane onsen) – Furano. Stay Furano.
      23 May: Furano (explore Furano a bit) – Sapporo. Stay Sapporo.
      24 May: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru). Stay Sapporo.
      25 May: Sapporo – Lake Toya
      26 May: Lake Toya – CTS

      Not sure what time your flight out of CTS is on 26th. If you have an early morning flight out, then maybe you can just visit Lake Toya as a day trip and stay at Air Terminal Hotel for your last night.

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