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Goin’ Japanesque!

Anime “Hanayamata”: Middle School Girls Show Their Passion for “Yosakoi” Dance!

“Hanayamata” aired on television between July and September 2014 in Japan. It is an anime featuring young students at school, written by So Hamayumiba and directed by Atsuko Ishizuka. This anime touches on culture and helps you understand the traditional dance of “Yosakoi”, an element of Japanese culture, through the girls in the story working hard at it.

By the way the title of “Hanayamata” was created by combining 5 middle school girls’ names in the story (Hana, Naru, Yaya, Machi & Tami). Each of their surnames is taken from place names in Kamakura, a popular tourist destination in Japan. The story also takes place around Kamakura City in Kanagawa Prefecture, and you can identify it quickly in the opening scenes (the Enoden Line, ice cream made with purple sweet potato, and so on).

 

Synopsis

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The main character, Naru Sekiya had been leading a plain ordinary life, attending Yuihama Gakuen Middle School.

She had been yearning to be like a heroine of a movie or manga, but she is somewhat shy. She had been drifting through life, lacking courage to change herself. But on the night of the first day of school, she meets a blond girl Hana wearing kimono and dancing in the moonlight.

Hana had seen Yosakoi dancing in Japan as a small child and she was fascinated by it. She has been hoping to create a Yosakoi Club at school to perform the dance with friends. Hana invites Naru to join the club, which at this point in the story is not an officially approved club yet, and Naru eventually agrees to become a member and steps into the world of Yosakoi.

Thus Naru and Hana form Yosakoi Club and start practicing the dance, making club emblems, getting “naruko” clappers that are used in the dance, and “haori” coats to wear for dancing while acquiring knowledge of Yosakoi.

It turns out that a minimum membership of 5 is required to be approved as a club. Tami and Yaya join the club and finally Machi, the Student Council President joins, enabling them to start activities as an official club.

Then it is decided that Yosakoi Club of Yuihama Gakuen Middle School will participate in “Hanairo Yosakoi Matsuri”, a summer festival. But an outrageous thing happens on the day before the event.

What in the world is it??

 

Characters

1. Naru Sekiya

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Naru is the main character of this story, and she is a second-year student of Yuihama Gakuen Middle School.

She is a timid and shy girl, and personally I think she is quick to tears.

Being invited by Hana to join Yosakoi dancing, she organizes the club with Hana, hoping she may be able to change herself.

She is handy and she draws designs of club emblems and Japanese umbrellas.

Her favorite flower is cherry blossoms.

2. Hana N Fountainstand

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Hana is from the USA and studying abroad as a second-year student at Yuihama Gakuen Middle School.

She has transferred into Naru’s class by chance (and sits at the next desk to hers).

By my impression she is an active and very cheerful girl.

She saw Yosakoi dancing when she was a small child and had a burning desire to dance it herself someday. She is the person who led Naru to the world of Yosakoi and formed the club.

She has high athletic abilities, and she is responsible for choreography in the club.

Her favorite flower is blue stars.

3. Yaya Sasame

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Yaya is also a second-year student of the same school. She is an honor student and beautiful in appearance.

While she appears aloof in public, she freely shows her adoration when she is alone with the person she loves.

It’s my impression that she has a natural inclination to protect her friends.

She is a childhood friend of Naru and she has been carefully watching over her. She becomes concerned about Nana and Haru creating Yosakoi Club, and she joins the club as a nominal member.

Yaya has been active as a drummer in a school band named “Need Cool Quality”, but the band dissolves after failing in an audition.

As a result she becomes an active member of Yosakoi Club at last.

She and Tami are responsible for composing music in the club.

Her favorite flower is red roses.

4. Tami Nishimikado

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Tami is a third-year student of the same school and Vice President of Student Council.

She is a mild person, good-looking and smart, practicing many skills like ballet, piano, and tea ceremony; she is what would be called a little princess.

I think she is like an older sister character who is kind and laid back.

When Naru becomes active in Yosakoi Club, she initially watches over her protectively, but gradually she starts taking interest in Yosakoi herself.

Then she gets an invitation from Naru, and becomes a member of the club.

She is responsible for composing music with Yaya in the club.

Her favorite flower is lilies.

5. Machi Tokiwa

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Machi is a third-year student of the same school and President of Student Council.

Because she is very serious, smart and strict, she tends to appear harsh to others, but she cannot refuse her best friend Tami’s request.

She appears to be a serious and principled girl to me.

When she was very young, she had a major fight with her elder sister Sari, and had been distant with her since then. But once the sister joins the school as a part-time instructor and becomes Advisor of Yosakoi Club, Machi realizes she had been misunderstanding her. They reconcile and make up, ending their tenuous relationship.

Afterwards she joins the club at Tami’s invitation as she wishes to be with Sari who is working hard for the club.

Her favorite flower is sunflowers.

 

Exciting Points of This Anime

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The most attractive point of “Hanayamata” is that it shows us through beautiful images the students’ passion for Yosakoi and what exactly Yosakoi is.

When you actually watch this work you will notice that landscapes, flowers, buildings and people are all illustrated in very beautiful colors.

As a result, the glamour of Yosakoi is expressed so vividly that those unfamiliar to Yosakoi or those from other countries should find no difficulty enjoying the story.

The story starts with an international student, and I think it will help people of other countries to find the story approachable.

Scenes depicting the town of Kamakura can be found every now and then in the opening and ending scenes as well as in the episodes themselves. Such scenes stir up our interest in Kamakura, which is another attractive point of this anime.

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Will “Hanayamata” inspire many people to experience Yosakoi or to go sightseeing in Kamakura? Well it’s just a thought.

Related Articles:
Kamakura (Temple/Shrine) Edition: Snag these 7 Sightseeing Hints and Double your Travel Enjoyment!
Kamakura (Experiences) Edition: Info for a Memorable Trip!

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