Wasshoi! Chants Used in Japanese Festivals
Summer is soon to arrive in Japan. What does the season remind you of first? It can be swimming at the beach, camping and anything else but one thing you should not forget are the festivals! Here we are focusing on the chants that are indispensable for Japanese festivals. People chant to fuel their momentum when they carry a festival float, booster the festive mood and in various other occasions. If you learn some of these chants, you can feel a sense of unity with everybody and enjoy Japanese festivals more. They are not very difficult expressions to master, so give it a try! Photo: http://www.chichibu.co.jp/
Wasshoi!: the Most Well-known Festival Chant in Japan
Wasshoi is the most famous festival chant in Japan. It is mainly used when people carry a festival float.
The origin of the wasshoi chant is said to be a Japanese phrase meaning “Carry Peace” or “Carry a Ring”; “wa” in “wa-sshoi” can mean both “peace” and “ring.” The former expresses people’s wish for peaceful lives while the latter symbolizes the unity required to achieve something collectively as a team.
Soiya! Seiya!: the Festival Chant Originated in the Kansai Area
“Soiya! Seiya!” has become as well-known as “Wasshoi.” This festival chant was originally used only in the Kansai Area. When people moved from the area to Tokyo, they threw in the chants they brought from their homes amidst the shouts of “Wasshoi.” As a result, “Soiya! Seiya!” has acquired a status of official chant in Asakusa Sanja Matsuri and other festivals in Tokyo. Listen carefully and learn which one is used in which festival.
Event Period of Asakusa Sanja Matsuri: The 3rd Fri, Sat and Sun in May, Every Year
Yattosa!: Tokushima Awa Dance
Awa Dance in Tokushima is one of the three major bon dance events in Japan. Its origin dating back as far as to the Edo Period (the 17th – 19th century), it has a history of about 400 years and is today renowned worldwide. The two chants listed below are most well-known and mainly used in Awa Dance. Among them, “Yattosa” is used more often than the other one.
- A. Ah, Yattosa! B. Ah, Yatto-Yatto!: These chants are used at the beginning or in the middle of the dance. They best suite Awa Dance and can really boost the festive mood.
- Erai-Yaccha Erai-Yaccha, Yoi! Yoi! Yoi! Yoi!: Japanese learners might associate the sound of “Erai” with the word meaning “superior/important” but this chant has nothing to do with it. The whole phrase of this chant is a dialect expression in the Kansai Area meaning “We are in a big trouble but we are still alright!”[margin_15b]
Rassera!: Aomori Nebuta Festival
Nebuta floats illuminated beautifully in the darkness of night… yes, we are talking about the famous Aomori Nebuta Festival! The gorgeous floats in this festival surely tend to grab your whole attention, but do not miss those voices chanting the famous phrase of “Rassera!” The origin of the chant is not very clear but one theory says it came from the expression, “Dase, dase,” which means “give me something (sake or lantern).”
Chants are important not only at festivals but also anywhere you want to boost the atmosphere either at live concerts or other events. The chants above can instantly unite the spirit of everybody on site. Do not hesitate and shout them aloud whenever you want!