Carnival elements added to
Yasakoi Festival in Kochi
Not only is Carnival happening in Japan again this year, but the organisers of the Kochi Yosakoi Festival are also innovating and preparing to introduce remotely operated robots for the first time, with the aim of making it possible for people from anywhere in the world and/or those who are physically challenged to participate in the festival live, and experience the excitement virtually together with the rest of the band.
"When I visited Trinidad & Tobago and experienced its carnival for the first time in 2001," explained Organiser, Tomoko "Selector Hemo" Inoue, " I found the similarities in styles with Japan’s famous Yosakoi Festival (Yosakoi Festival celebrates 70th Anniversary this year). I soon came up with an idea to produce a Yosakoi Band that combines both cultures of traditional Yosakoi Dance and Trinidad Carnival, which lead me to establish CANAVAL in 2008. The band invited Machel Montano in 2017, which drew huge attention locally and internationally, but then through three tough years of dealing with the covid situation and not being able to travel abroad - and even missing Trinidad Carnival for the first time in 20 years, I decided to propose a new style and a new world for the continuous existence of the festivals/carnivals.
"I am proud to introduce remotely operated robots, which makes it possible for people from anywhere in the world or those physically challenged to participate in the festival live, and experience the whole excitement together."
In preparation for the Kochi Yosakoi Festival to be held in August 2023, the Remote Yosakoi Robot Executive Committee, in collaboration with AGAMI Corporation, is now pleased to announce (at the start of June) the launch of an appearance design contest for robot avatars.
In this initiative that combines technology and tradition, the "Remote Yosakoi Robot
Executive Committee" plans to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Kochi Yosakoi Festival by bringing robot avatars to the festival. The project aims to provide an innovative platform for people in wheelchairs, the elderly, people with disabilities and others who are unable to participate in the Yosakoi parade due to various circumstances.
Called the "Agamon" series, this series of remotely operable robotic avatars will be unveiled for the first time at the Kochi Yosakoi Festival in collaboration with the dance group CANAVALAVA, which combines Carnival culture and Yosakoi tradition.
The AGAMI Corporation is a Tokyo-based robotics systems development company, who is spearheading the development of remotely-operated robot systems. This technology allows a remotely operated robot avatar to become a channel for expressing dance movements through an intuitive touch interface. With this system, even individuals, who are facing physical challenges to move their body, may be able to actively engage in the Yosakoi festival and share in the rhythms and movements with fellow dancers and the audience.
The design contest will be open for a month, from the 1st of June to the 30th of June. Anyone can register as a participant in the contest and submit ideas and images suggesting appearances for the Agamon avatars. The registered user will be able to view all the submissions and can give ‘like’ marks. The top three most liked images will be the winners, and will be rewarded.
Via this innovative contest, the "Remote Yosakoi Robot Executive Committee" invites designers from around the world to submit their creative ideas for Agamon avatars’ appearances.
Inoue added that:
"This contest will give an opportunity to everyone around the world to contribute to the appearances of the historic first series of Agamon avatars participating in the 70th Yosakoi festival, which is set to take place in Kochi city of Japan on the 10th and 11th of August this year."
Additionally, and in order to cover some of the fabrication and execution costs, the AGAMI Inc plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign from mid June 2023. All of the latest information about the design contest and the crowdfunding campaign can be found on the official site of the Remote Yosakoi Robot Executive Committee.
Aiming to make this year's installment bigger and better than ever, the "CANAVALAVA" Yosakoi team is also still recruiting dancers for the event and welcoming all interested persons to join the team and experience the historic effort taking place in August.
Not surprisingly, given their love for our national instrument, the CANAVAL band also has a steel pan section which includes players either positioned on the truck or parading in the streets with neck-secured pans. The band is offering attractive tour packages for those who’d like to experience the historical moment of this year’s Yosakoi festival, alongside the beauty and magic of Kochi's natural wonders. Blessed and famous for its rich nature, Kochi boasts of green mountains, crystal rivers and wide ocean views and experiences with some only 30-53...mins drive from the main city area.
"You can also enjoy delicious food in Kochi." Inoue added. "Fresh local vegetables are always available, and great sea food includes popular Katsuo (bonito) that satisfies almost everyone who visits Kochi. The people of Kochi are friendly and cheerful, and as you can guess from the power of Yosakoi Festival, they are very energetic. They love to drink, and `Okyaku’ is one of their important traditions where people all gather to drink for any occasion from weddings to funerals - literally anything nowadays, as long as everyone can have fun and feel like one big Kochi family in the end."
Kochi’s summer season is a big festival season with the Yosakoi Festival held every year on August 10th and 11th. The Festival first started in 1954 and is now the biggest parade style festival in Japan, where people dance passionately to the music at 15 different dancing spots. During this festival, 20,000 masqueraders with Naruko clappers in their hands (an essential tradition style) parade around the city, performing with full energy, cheer and colors. Participants are free to choose a team (band) to join, usually determined by preferences in teams' costumes, music, colors and original choreography. Each team comes up with their own original styles and this is what makes Yosakoi Festival so unique and appealing when compared to other festivals in Japan.