Every last Saturday of July, Toyota City has its annual festival called Oiden. It is followed by the Toyota City Fireworks Display on Sunday.
They close off one of the main streets of Toyota City and set up a stage and some food stands. Thousands of people flock to the Toyota City Center to see the spectacle that is Oiden.
So what is Oiden all about then? Oiden is a dance festival. Groups of people, dressed in the most colourful costumes they could come up with, gather in the street behind the stage.
Each group has practiced a dance routine that they will perform over and over again to the Oiden song while slowly moving up and down the street in a long chain (making an ellipse so that they eventually come back to where they started and so that all spectators have seen all groups pass by).
A bit too abstract? Allow me to illustrate with a video.
Oiden is starting. First a countdown: ‘O-I-D-E-Oiden’, then the music starts and everyone starts dancing.
You have to admit it’s a catchy tune. In the video below you can hear the chorus and see another group dancing. It’s the same song every year.
These dancing people give a new meaning to the word energetic (genki in Japanese). I have never seen such enthusiasm over such a prolonged period of time, nor have I ever seen so many smiling faces in one place.
Admittedly Oiden seems a little over the top but all cynicism put aside, these loud, happy, sparkling people really made me feel good. Oiden is a festival with a very positive vibe. It’s all about having some good old-fashioned fun.
When the festival is over, most of the crowd disperses in about 15 minutes. Although nobody throws garbage on the ground in Japan, a cleaning crew of about 20 people is on standby – just in case. When the street clears the crew immediately sets to work, picking up the smallest piece of paper or lost sequin by hand (!).