Aoba Matsuri 2024: Suzume Odori and the Yamaboko Parade

Tohoku University students had a big weekend at this year's Aoba Matsuri, Sendai's most famous summer street festival which celebrates the city's rich history and culture.

For the first time, some 30 international students participated in the Yamaboko Parade, joining staff members of Fujisaki Department Store in pulling the company's 6-meter-tall traditional float.

"Fujisaki has taken part in this festival for the last 40 years and we wanted to do something special this year so we invited Tohoku University students to walk with us," said Kouhei Shibuya, who leads Fujisaki's Aoba Matsuri Committee. "The cheerful voices and bright smiles of the international students brought a fresh energy to our group and I thought it was a great experience for everyone!"

The parade route - which took nearly 3 hours to complete - was lined with thousands of people waving, cheering and taking pictures of the floats and dancers.

"It was really fun today! You can feel the energy of all the people around," said Reetta Smids, an IPLA student from Finland. "There were so many people who came out to watch the parade and you could just see how much fun they were having."

"I wanted to do this because it's an opportunity to experience Japanese culture," said Zhang Ziqian, a PhD student from China. "Everyone has been so warm and welcoming to us foreign students, I'm really happy to be part of this event."

"Today was really great! I love being here, I love the spirit of the Japanese people coming together to celebrate this festival," said Arlind Stolliqi, an IPLA student from Germany. "It's very, very nice to see how passionate everyone is."

And it wasn't just current students who had a good time at the festival. A group of Tohoku University alumni stopped by to say hello after seeing the university's students and banners along the parade route.

"As a Japanese, I am so happy to see international students dancing and feeling the Japanese culture," said Naoki Morota, who graduated in 2022. "As an alumnus, it also makes me proud to see the university represented by such diverse students."

Aside from the floats, another major feature of Aoba Matsuri is the suzume odori, or sparrow dance, performed by hundreds of community groups.

This year's Tohoku University Sparrow Dance Team comprised 60 students, most of whom were international students who learnt the traditional dance in a semester-long class on Japanese culture.

The group performed three times on Saturday to big cheers, and were accompanied each time by local drum unit Hiyokko (雛鼓) on their traditional instruments.

The dance is called suzume odori because of its fluttering bird-like movements. It dates back to the 17th century when stonemasons building Sendai Castle reportedly performed this dance for Lord Masamune Date.


(For the Suzume Odori)
Tohoku University Global Learning Center
Senior Assistant Professor Yukiko Shimmi
Tel: 022-795-3935

(For the Yamaboko Parade)
Tohoku University Fund and Alumni Affairs Office
General Affairs and Planning Department
Tel: 022-217-6290

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