「Kochi Yosakoi Ambassador KIZUNA International Team」aims to promote Yosakoi in various countries worldwide and achieve international exchange under the guidance of Kochi Prefectural Governor certified ‘Yosakoi Ambassador’ Emiko Tanaka.
People who love Yosakoi, including the Yosakoi Ambassadors of different countries (teams/individuals certified by Kochi prefecture to help promote Yosakoi around the world) gather together to perform in Kochi Yosakoi Festival, Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festival (Tokyo), and other events.
We overcome language and cultural differences by dancing Yosakoi together and creating a strong bond (KIZUNA) with one another. Members will bring back their experiences from Japan to their home countries and share with everyone the amazingness of Yosakoi, Kochi, and Japan.
In 2018, we first participated in Kochi Yosakoi Festival as ‘Sakuramai Poland International Team’ with 63 members gathered together from 12 countries and regions worldwide.
This is the team ‘Sakuramai Poland International Team’ built by Emiko Tanaka, who was the representative of ‘Sakuramai Poland’, in order to fulfill the members’ dream of participating in the real Kochi Yosakoi Festival and established for gathering friends not only from Poland, but around the world who love Yosakoi.
Participating as a new team from overseas, with dancers from 12 countries with differing economic conditions is not at all easy, and especially funding was the biggest hurdle for us. As one way to overcome that hurdle, we began a crowdfunding campaign.
This is the crowdfunding campaign we ran:
This campaign, founded on the idea that “we want others to know that there are many people who love Yosakoi around the world”, spreading from person to person, receiving warm words and support from people worldwide, was able to achieve its goal.
Also, being the first ever in Kochi Yosakoi Festival history to participate as the『International Team joining from overseas with members gathered from around the world』 in the 65th Kochi Yosakoi Festival, and perform 「絆-KIZUNA-」, our project,【Let’s unite the world through Yosakoi!】was a huge success.
Please watch our promotional video, 「絆-KIZUNA-」!
TV Kochi made a documentary program for us. Please take a look!
2019 marks the 2nd year since our team foundation. We restarted under the team name ‘Kochi Yosakoi Ambassador KIZUNA International Team’.
In order for others to understand that we are an international team of dancers gathered from around the world, we removed a specific country name from our team name, and chose both the 2018 performance theme and what we treasure most:【絆-KIZUNA-】(bonds) instead.
Many people are supporting us so our members can join from around the world.
As a team with members gathered from around the world, because some participating countries have a significant economic gap with Japan, we ran a crowdfunding campaign to try and reduce the members’ participating fees.
Fortunately, the cooperation and support from many people worldwide helped us achieve our goal.
■Rehearsal method until going to Kochi
Because our team members are spread throughout various countries worldwide, the time we can practice all together in person is just before the actual festival. Until this time our dancers watch the tutorial videos made in Japanese and English, join online or regional rehearsals and continue practicing in each of their own countries. With instructors giving detailed feedback for the videos submitted by our dancers, this rehearsal method for exactly six months before going to Kochi, unique to an international team, crafts our performance.
Some members are the only one participating from their country, but the team does whatever it can to help!
The dance choreography is carefully explained through tutorial videos in Japanese and English!
Group rehearsals are held in Tokyo, Canada etc. regions with many members.
In Kochi Prefecture, we perform Yosakoi Ambassador activities and interact with the Kochi community.
■Yosakoi Camp in Ino Town, Agawa, Kochi
We conduct a camp in Ino Town of Agawa, Kochi with cooperation from the regional community.
●The Ino Town Camp is an irreplaceably important time period for our team
After repeated rehearsals in each country over exactly six months, our dancers unite in Kochi on August 8th.
From then until the festival, our rehearsal period is only three days.
At first we were very anxious about whether we could deliver a performance within this short period, or if dancers with different languages and cultures could communicate with each other, however when the time came, everyone opened
■Exchange events with the Ino Town community
During our camp in Ino Town the regional community warmly welcomed us, and there were tons of events such as rehearsals at the elementary school, cultural exchanges, etc.
Our the camp’s first night, we had a blast with Kochi’s『Okyaku』(Kochi-style drinking party)!
The tender hospitality was strongly felt from the numerous delights prepared by the regional community, including Sawachi (platter or big dish) cuisine, speciality ginger dishes, Kochi sake, and live cooking of katsuo (bonito fish). We are truly thankful for their additional consideration to each members’ differing culture and customs by preparing an exclusive vegetarian platter amongst other acts of kindness.
KIZUNA International Team’s music team Furachinarhythm and Ms. Megumi Yanagi also joined the Okyaku party as special guests!
Mr. Mori Naofumi from Furachinarhythm was born in Ino Town. As its tourism ambassador, he promotes the town’s excellence.
There was also a section for the Ino Town community to learn about our team’s diversity by introducing the members’ individual countries and their Yosakoi activities. Members learning Japanese made a brave effort to present using Japanese.
The next day, with the tireless aid from Ino Town’s Board of Education, we ran the ‘Cultural Exchange with Ino Town Elementary School Students and Foreign Team Members’. Members living overseas exchanged letters and introduced themselves to Ino Town elementary school in advance, then could actually meet each other face-to-face. Together they made ‘uchiwa’ (paper fans) and experienced Japanese traditional paper-making of ‘washi’ special to Ino Town. Following this exchange, the elementary school students came to watch our rehearsals and performances, and some are still happily in contact after the festival!
■Participating in Yosakoi Ambassador Exchange Party and Speech as a First Generation Ambassador
First Generation Yosakoi Ambassador, Team Leader Emiko Tanaka and KIZUNA International Team members participated in the Yosakoi Ambassador Exchange Party, and to greet the newly elected ambassadors teams along with persons connected to Kochi City, Prefecture, and/or Yosakoi. Being able to interact with many people and devour delicious Kochi cuisine was a precious opportunity.
■Worldwide promotion of Kochi culture!
Our ‘furafu’ (flag) design features the character for ‘kizuna’ (bond), and flowers symbolising each country of our members.
Designer Keiji Matsumoto living in Poland designed ‘Symbolic flowers for each participating worldwide members’ country’, and ‘Hachiro Dyeing Factory’ in Kami City of Kochi made our ‘furafu’.
Our design is quite different from regular ‘furafu’ but is the one and only in the world born from the expertise of Kochi craftsmanship!
This ‘furafu’ design that our team is very proud of is also printed on the back of our team costume.
It was produced with the hope of promoting the Kochi’s culture of ‘furafu’ worldwide even when team members return home to their own countries.
We dance whole-heartedly, with passion for friends around the world who love Yosakoi.
●Courtesy Visit to Kochi Governor
We visited former governor Masanao Ozaki (governor at the time) at the Kochi Prefectural Office, and reported Kochi Yosakoi Ambassador activities, and KIZUNA International Team’s goal for participating in Kochi Yosakoi Festival.
■Kochi Tourism Ambassador Designation by Governor Seiji Hamada on January 28th 2020
In 2020, team leader Emiko Tanaka was elected as Kochi Tourism Ambassador.
She will do her absolute best to promote the excellence of Kochi and wonder of Yosakoi worldwide!
●Then, finally, Kochi Yosakoi Festival starts！
Members of the team who were interested participated in the souodori (group dance) “Kono Chi E” on the night before festival on the 9th.
■ On the 10th and 11th, the main festival that we’d all been waiting for!
■We participate in the festival with support from experienced Kochi staff members and many people throughout Kochi!
Our members come a long way from places with different climates, so some may not be used to the heat of Japanese summers, or have been on long flights. To support them during the festival, our support staff, including some with nursing qualifications, and our water team worked hard to make the dancers’ safety the first priority.
For lunch, we had delicious bentos that were kindly provided by our sponsor, Hokka Hokka Tei. Since our dancers come from various cultures and religions, Hokka Hokka Tei provided vegetarian bentos without animal products, and halal bentos without pork products as well. All the team members had their energy replenished for the afternoon!
On the music truck were the band Furachinarhythm, who have connections to Kochi; singer Megumi Yanagi; and Keita Sasagaki from Kochi. The KIZUNA International Team music crew raised the excitement levels at the performance even higher!
■The team has been able to participate in the National Convention on the 12th every year since its founding
The dancers, who had been dancing for three days, and the support staff, all shared feelings of excitement and connection as a KIZUNA family, even if we couldn’t understand each other’s languages. Our participation in Kochi Yosakoi Festival and share our passion for Yosakoi in the summer heat has become cherished memories for all our members, and even though the festival has ended, we are still continuing our journey online and developing our “bonds” of international and cultural exchange.
■2019 Our first year participating in Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festivali!!!
After our 2019 activities in Kochi, we participated for the first time in Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festival, held in Tokyo. Dancers were free to choose which festivals to participate in.
On the last day of the festival, Omotesando Avenue, a main street in Harajuku, is turned into a performance venue. It’s special because only teams selected in advance, as well as 6 teams selected by judges on the first day of the festival, are scheduled to dance here. KIZUNA International Team was chosen as one of those 6 teams despite this being our first appearance in this festival, so we were able to showcase our dance performance on Omotesando Avenue. We were all so happy we could cry when we heard we had been selected, and when we danced we were full of gratitude to those who had supported us.
■We were also approached to participate in Olympic-related events. We’re actively stirring up interest for Yosakoi!
August 15, 2019 “Cheering On 2020 with Yosakoi in Odaiba”
As part of a project to include Yosakoi performances in the opening or closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we supported competitors through Yosakoi dance performance at the ITU world triathlon Olympic qualification event!
October 28, 2019 – “Yosakoi Informational Exchange Conference” at Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo
As part of the Yosakoi Informational Exchange Conference, which was aimed at spreading information on Yosakoi culture overseas and mainly invited foreign media outlets with Japanese presences, team representative Emiko Tanaka and Australian member Eleanor Gray appeared on a talk show with the governor of Kochi Prefecture. We were able to share messages and performance videos from Yosakoi Ambassadors who are working to spread Yosakoi in various countries, as well as convey the spirit of “Yosakoi being loved all around the world” with the over 100 members of the media and embassy staff who attended the conference.
■KIZUNA members’ activities go on even after returning to their various countries
Our team mission is to bring back to our home countries the experiences and emotions of having participated in Yosakoi in the place where it started, and to communicate the appeal of Yosakoi, Kochi, and Japan to those around us.
Having returned to their countries, dancers can teach KIZUNA International Team’s choreography to the local teams they belong to, practice it, and perform it at events. For smaller teams, it may be difficult to compose original songs and choreography, so KIZUNA International Team has provided a system for our own performances to be used around the world.
In 2020, our team’s 3rd year, we took on the challenge and focused on new, mainly online festivals and projects
■ We created a music video for “GO!” with people from around the world
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were planned to be held in 2020, but the spread of Covid-19 caused festivals and events to be canceled worldwide. KIZUNA International Team had prepared choreography for “GO!”, which was designed to express our excitement towards the Olympics, but since the Kochi Yosakoi Festival and Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festival were canceled, our debut of this performance has been pushed back to 2021.
While the debut of our new song, “Go”, has been pushed back, we still wanted to use this song to connect with people in 2020. So, with the cooperation of over 300 Yosakoi fans from around the world, we created a music video for it! We would like to express our deep gratitude again to all the Yosakoi teams who participated, and to all of our supporters. Thanks to you, we were able to create a fantastic music video that fit both 2020 and KIZUNA International Team.
Please watch this!
■ Focusing on online events in 2020 and participating in Tele DOMATSURI
Nippon Domannaka Festival, held in Nagoya, is usually held at the same time as Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festival, so KIZUNA International Team had previously not been able to participate in it. However, in 2020, the festival was held online under the name Tele DOMATSURI, and we were able to use videos of our performances from 2018 and 2019. While it’s been a tough year, it’s also been a good one for learning as we took on challenges to participate in new festivals and hold events mainly online.
You can see the performances we presented at Tele DOMATSURI here!
■ New challenge for 2020: Yosakoi 8!
In April, seven choreographers, who are active mostly in Kochi, got together to form the group Yosakoi 8. KIZUNA International Team leader Emiko Tanaka also joined the group, and is endeavoring to share information about Yosakoi 8 with the rest of the world. During Yosakoi 8’s live streams on Youtube, KIZUNA International Team’s translation team is responsible for interpreting, supporting Yosakoi 8’s activities and making the most out of our abundant diversity.
Yosakoi 8’s activities include the development of the new songs “HEY∞WA! ~for you and me~” and “On a Moon-Blooming Night”, which were performed by Furachinarhythm, the band responsible for KIZUNA International Team’s music as well. The group also developed choreography for HEY∞WA! and made it available to the public. Yosakoi 8, a group that was formed specifically because there was no festival in Kochi in 2020, is continuing its projects with the hope that they can encourage those who love Yosakoi, and use Yosakoi to bring a smile to people around the world.
「HEY∞WA!」～for you and me～
While we were unfortunately unable to dance together in festivals this year, we also made new discoveries. We are wrapping up our 2020 activities in November and will start looking forward to 2021.
Our 2021 activities will start with team member recruitment starting in October 2020. In consideration of KIZUNA International Team’s concept, we are looking to recruit fellow members who will actively support the team, so we are focusing on recruiting “team members” rather than “dancers”. In 2021, in addition to participating in Kochi Yosakoi Festival and Harajuku Super Yosakoi Festival as we did in 2019, we also plan to participate in Nagoya’s Nippon Domannaka Festival as well.
Participation in the team is a great opportunity for overseas members to experience Yosakoi performances in its home, Kochi, and for Japanese members, it’s a way to rediscover the charms of Japan while engaging in international exchange, via Yosakoi, that transcends differences in nationality or language. If you’re interested in our activities, please view our information page on member recruitment! We are looking forward to your applications!
Click here for more information about team member recruitment!