Photo/IllutrationWomen dancers take part in the Owara Kaze no Bon festival in the Yatsuomachi district of Toyama on Sept. 1. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

  • Photo/Illustraion

TOYAMA--Although heavy rain led to some flooding in Toyama Prefecture the day before, the annual dance festival known as Owara Kaze no Bon began from Sept. 1 in the Yatsuomachi district here as planned.

With a history dating back more than 300 years, the dance festival--designed to pray for protection against strong seasonal winds and a bountiful autumn harvest--has also become a major tourist draw.

Groups engaged in synchronized dancing to the accompaniment of drums and the "kokyu" traditional Japanese stringed instrument while singers joined in with traditional folk songs.

The men and women dancers all wore their straw hats in a way to cover their faces. The 11 communities in the district were represented by groups in matching colorful "yukata" summer kimono. The dancing continued through the night and tourists walked around in search of the different groups.

The festival, which started at 3 p.m. on Sept. 1, continues through Sept. 3. The Toyama Yatsuo Tourism Association said it expected about 260,000 people to take in the event, about the same number as last year.