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Amami’s Must-Experience Summer Tradition: Tatsugo Furusato Festival
Amami’s Must-Experience Summer Tradition: Tatsugo Furusato Festival
July 14, 2023

Tatsugo Furusato Festival is  a unique celebration that has been cherished by locals and tourists for several decades. It is the earliest summer festival of the year in Amami and a representation of the rich and vibrant culture of Tatsugo, a small town located in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan. The festival is an opportunity for people to gather and celebrate the town’s cultural heritage through healthy competition, dance, music, food and various traditional activities.

2023 marks the relaunch of the festival to its full-scale after a four year hiatus due to the pandemic. Previously, few performances were brought to a halt and a cheering ban was put into effect. However, things are expected to return to normalcy this year and visitors will get to experience the festival at its height again!

Tatsugo Furusato Festival, which will be held on July 23rd, 2023, has long been regarded as an important event by the community and is eagerly awaited by locals and visitors alike. This festival is annually held to foster camaraderie among the residents of the town and serves as a chance to contribute to the revitalization of the community. It is also a way to preserve the local culture and pass it onto the next generation.

This year, the festival holds another special meaning to the locals. The 31st Tatsugo Furusato Festival will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the reversion of Amami Island to Japan. After the return of the US administration, Amami Island was returned to the mainland in 1953 and the festival will be held to honour those who played significant roles in the reversion. 

Anticipating the Highlights: What to Look Forward to at Tatsugo Furusato Matsuri

1. Immerse in Lively Stage Performances

Prepared to be amazed by the many performances put together by the residents of Tatsugo Town! The highlight of this section is the traditional Amami songs performed by the Shima Uta Preservation Society. The group who tirelessly works to keep the island’s cultural heritage alive, aims to charm the audience through the five songs they will unveil later. Other than that, around 10-15 groups consist of hip-hop dancers, hula dancers, traditional Japanese dancers and bands are expected to grace the stage and wow the audience with their skill and energy. These performances are guaranteed to liven up the atmosphere and this is just the first of many activities you could anticipate at the festival.

2. Explore Local Culinary and Vendor Offerings

A festival is never complete without its array of mouthwatering cuisines and the variety of local products on sale. You will be pleased to find out that Tatsugo Furusato Matsuri is not an exception to food stalls and merchandise vendors lining up on the street. Takoyaki (ball-shaped pancake filled with diced octopus), yakisoba (stir-fried noodle), yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry), kakigori (shaved ice) and many others – whether it is sweet or savoury, your craving will certainly be fulfilled once you take a step into the festival. There are also local merchants selling their goods on site. Shopping at these stalls contributes to supporting the local community so visitors are encouraged to show their support to Tatsugo Town within their means. 

3. Witness age-old rituals such as ‘Hachigatsuodori’

Hachigatsuodori (八月踊り) is a traditional dance of Amami performed in festivals as celebration. There are 20 villages in Tatsugo Town and every single one of them has its own unique dance (choreography) and song (lyrics). At the Tatsugo Furusato Festival, a village will be chosen to showcase their Hachigatsuodori to everyone. The residents of the chosen village get to spread the appeal of their tradition while other residents will be given an opportunity to participate in the dance, making it a precious occasion bound to be remembered by all. This event is held to ensure the next generation is familiar with the traditional dance in hopes it could breed more successors to carry on with the Hachigatsuodori tradition. In 2009, UNESCO declared that the language and dialect spoken by the island’s inhabitants were at risk of disappearing. Here at Miru Amami, we aim to persistently showcase the captivating traditions of Amami’s traditional culture to the world and contribute to its preservation.

4. Experience the Excitement of Boat Racing

A highlight that takes place during the Tatsugo Furusato Festival is boat racing. In this race, six rowers and one helmsman board a special boat on a 340-meter round-trip course and compete for speed using a special oar. Every year, around 40 teams in the men division, 20 teams in the women division, and 10 teams in the elementary school division participate in the race. The adult teams consist of either “Tatsugo Town Residents” or “Employees of Local Businesses” while the elementary school teams are made up of classmates or members of extracurricular activities so a deeper bond could be forged while honing their rowing skills for the competition. This year there is no cheering restriction so you can expect to hear cheering crowds and the beating of Amami drums throughout the event.

5. Watch the sky illuminate with Fireworks

It is said that the fireworks are the main event of the Tatsugo Furusato Festival. Approximately 1,300 fireworks will illuminate the night sky of Tatsugo Town to symbolise the excitement for the beginning of summer. As there are no tall or bright-colored buildings nearby, visitors could enjoy the fireworks up close without having their vision obstructed. The brilliant colors and shapes of the fireworks will amaze everyone, and people of all ages will certainly be enthralled by the sight. 

Planning Your Trip to Amami Island

For travellers and tourists who plan to visit Kagoshima Prefecture in Amami Island in July, do include the Tatsugo Furusato Festival in your holiday itinerary. You will not only experience the cultural heritage of Amami Island but also witness the sense of community and togetherness that the festival brings. From stage performance to fireworks, there is not a dull moment during Amami’s most cherished Summer celebration.