If you’ve ever visited Japan, surely you’ve ridden on at least one of the many Japan Railway (JR) train lines, where you probably noticed the serious and stoic faces of the company’s conductors and staff. So it might be hard to imagine that JR Kyushu has it’s own very energetic, award-winning yosakoi dance oendan, or cheering squad, that frequently competes in some of the biggest yosakoi traditional dance festivals around the country.
This past weekend the JR Kyushu Oentai performed and won the top prize at the Sapporo YOSAKOI Soran Festival in Hokkaido (Japan’s northern-most island), and as soon as footage and pictures of their performance hit the internet, Japanese netizens were abuzz about just how cool the group looked.
But before we skip to their amazing performance, here’s a little bit of history on yosakoi and the formation of the JR Kyushu Oentai.
Yosakoi is a style of dance that takes its roots from awa odori, a traditional summer dance famous in Tokushima Prefecture. It was introduced in the 1950’s in Kochi Prefecture, which neighbors Tokushima, as a modern style of awa odori.
▼ The Awa Odori festival in Tokushima is one of the biggest festivals in Japan.
Tradition dictates that yosakoi dances be set to some variation of Takemasa Eisaku’s “Yosakoi Naruto Dancing“, but the dance has also become synonymous with the traditional fisherman’s tune “Soran”, and is commonly performed at Japanese sports day events.
▼ Elementary school students performing “Soran” at a typical sports day event
In 2011, the JR Kyushu Oentai was created as a way to promote the Kyushu Shikansen line and local tourism. The group is currently made up of 37 JR Kyushu conductors, drivers, cabin crew members, and station staff. In the four years since the group’s formation, they’ve gone on to win numerous awards and titles at different yosakoi dance festivals across Japan.
They even seem to have their own little mascot character.
Who knows, he could become the next big character going by what Japanese netizens are saying after JR Kyushu Oentai’s most recent win at the Sapporo YOSAKOI Soran Festival:
“It’s like something out of Pokemon.”
“Their performance is just too cool… *mesmerized*”
“They gave me goosebumps!!!”
“They look too cool from behind!”
“Can’t help but fall in love with those katana-wielding girls, too.”
“I want to give them some swords”
“You’d think they’d walked right out of Rurouni Kenshin.”
“They look so cool!!!!!!!! BRB, going to go and marry me a Kyushu boy!!!!!!”
Don’t miss out on the buzz! Be sure to watch the dance troupe’s whole performance, featured below, and tell us what you think.