Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gujo Odori

I know! You don't have to say it. I've been neglecting this blog a lot these couple of months. I've just been so busy on the weekends and then too tired to even muster up any energy to think of something to write, let alone actually write it up and post it. I've finally started to explore Japan kinda. It's more difficult to explore Japan than it was to explore Taiwan mostly due to the cost. You would think with such an established public transportation system that it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg to get to places.

I recently visited an awesome town called Gujo Hachiman which is famous for its Gujo Odori. Odori is a kind of dance performed in Japan, usually around the Obon Holiday. People perform it in public places and anyone can join in. You just observe how the steps are performed and then join the line of moving people. I danced horribly but it was amazing to be able to experience such a traditional Japanese custom. I also finally got to wear my yukata, a summer kimono! Apparently after August wearing a yukata is a big no no. Bummer because I only got to wear it once and that thing was EXPENSIVE!

Japanese elders really know how to dance! The dancing starts at 8:30 and lasted until 10:30 but when I was here it went on till 11! On certain days during the Obon Holiday the dancing lasts all night which is what this town is known for. I was in Korea during that week so didn't get see it. :( That platform you see in the picture is called a yagura and usually acts as the bandstand for the musicians and singers. Each region has their own kind of music and style of dancing. Every time the song changed so did the dance. People here have got their steps down. Once the music changed, everyone flowed right into the next style of dancing while I fumbled around trying to mimic their steps.

my awesome yukata! i was sweating balls after all the dancing!

We stayed at an awesome hostel that was attached to a temple. The rooms were very nice and traditional. Since Gujo is very small, everything is easily accessible by foot. There are no showers in the hostel but they have an agreement with an onsen, hot spring baths, nearby which you can go for free but they closed super early around 7-8pm so I didn't have a chance to check it out.

getting to sleep on futons - can't get more Japanese than that!

The Details
Getting Here: I highly recommend taking the Gifu Bus from Gifu to Gujo Hachiman because it drops you off in the center of town rather than if you take the train here. The train station is on the outskirts of town and involves quite a few transfers from any major city.
Bus schedule
You will want to get off at this stop: 郡上八幡城下町プラザ. The bus is really on time so if you know that its around the time you should be getting off then get off. The marquee inside the bus only displays the stops in Japanese. The one way fare on the bus costs 1480 yen and this bus is distance based so you'll see the prices change as it gets closer to Gujo. At the Meitetsu Bus Station (right below the Meitetsu Train Station) you can get a round trip ticket for a 10% discount. If you're taking the JR to Gifu the bus also stops at the bus station right outside of the JR Train Station. Head towards bus stop #14. The bus will have Gujo Hachiman on the outside.
Other ways to get to Gujo

For info on what dates the Gujo Odori will be held check out their amazingly helpful website.

Stay: Gujo Tosenji Hostel
Cost: 3900 yen for non members
I believe they have a super early check out time which was fine with us since we only had one day here to explore all of Gujo. I don't believe there is wifi here so that could be a problem for most people. There are also a lot of ryokans and hotels in Gujo Hachiman but they can be a bit pricey for backpackers.
Gujo Hachiman Map
Print out this map before you go - so helpful! Not sure if you can get the same map at the tourist center. The map is super accurate and to find the hostel just head to Tosen Ji. There are also some English sign posts scattered around the city near major attractions.

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