A small city right next to Matsumoto, Okaya is home to a surprisingly massive taiko festival every year. Two days of festivities include yosakoi dance and taiko drum performances from both local and out-of-town groups. The speed and endurance of the drummers seemed almost unreal.
I headed down to Okaya to see the main stage performances being held in the evening. The power and energy coming from the stage was palpable. Some of the performances involve over 100 drums, and many were accompanied by theatrics and pyrotechnics. Getting right up close to the stage, I could feel the vibrations wash over me. The excitement drew in the whole crowd, young and old.
While some elevated seating was available with tickets purchased in advance, regular seating on giant blue tarps in front of the stage was first come, first serve. Fortunately, a lot of people seemed to be coming and going, giving others chances a chance to grab a seat. Be sure to bring your own cushion as the tarps are set on pavement! Food stalls lined the back of the spectator area, offering attendees treats including karaage (fried chicken) and kebabs. If you prefer, you can also bring your own food and drinks.
Okaya is less than a 40 min train ride from Matsumoto Station. You can take either the local train or the Ltd. Exp. Azusa (or Super Azusa) − both offering direct access to Okaya Station. From Okaya Station, it’s just a 10 minute walk to the stage area. You’ll find other smaller performances along the way, too.