Dancing Frenzy Sweeps Feudal Japan

There’s a little-known phenomenon in history called “dancing mania,” and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: huge groups of people start dancing for no real reason until they’re completely exhausted. It’s a rare, incredibly interesting part of human behavior.

In Japan, something similar happened a few hundred years ago. It was called ええじゃないか or “Why not?” and it’s kind of hard to explain.

Changing Times

ええじゃないか started out innocently enough: people were dancing at different celebrations (as people in Japan were known to do) for things like seasonal festivals.

But then people kept finding more and more reasons to keep on dancing until regular, everyday life was completely gone and Japanese villagers were swept up into this weird frenzy.

eejyanaika

People danced, chanted, sang, dressed up, dressed down, and just generally went kinda crazy. ええじゃないか got more and more insane until it turned into violence and just sort of petered out.

Why did ええじゃないか happen? There are a few theories.

During the mid-1800s when ええじゃないか took place, there was a huge cultural shift happening in Japan. The Shogunate that had ruled over Japan for the last couple hundred years was crumbling, and a new society was starting to take shape. The Meiji Restoration was coming.

With social changes as big as the Meiji Restoration, there are always people who are displaced financially, socially, or culturally. Sometimes, all of the above.

Some people think that ええじゃないか was a sort of outlet to deal with the stress of all of being displaced. The movie ええじゃないか subscribed to that theory:

Other people think that ええじゃないか happened for no real reason. I mean, why not? There weren’t any leaders nor organization to ええじゃないか, no plans, stated goals, or message. It just sort of happened, then stopped happening.

It all could have just been a sort of spontaneous social phenomenon that nobody can really explain, like the Harlem Shake.

It’s fun to imagine different theories about ええじゃないか, since we’ll never really know for sure what exactly spurred it all.

The Social Movement-Turned Roller Coaster

Nowadays, people in Japan don’t go on days-long dancing sprees unless they’re high on LSD, listening to trance. Still, ええじゃないか lives on in Japan as a roller coaster at the incredible Fuji Q Highland amusement park that bears the same name:

Does it have anything to do with the dancing mania of old Japan? Not really — any connection between the two would be a pretty big stretch. But you know what they say: ええじゃないか?

  • Tora.Silver

    There was just so much wat in that commercial. But, ええじゃないか?

  • Vague

    Japanese housewives: A force to be reckoned with.

  • AnadyLi

    I’m just sitting here thinking of Kamui Gakupo’s “Dancing Samurai”

  • grimpoteuthis

    Interesting! I’d like to think it wasn’t as morbid a thing as the film suggests, but who knows…
    And now I’m sitting here filling out some tedious paperwork and just keep hearing ええじゃないか、ええじゃないか、ええじゃなーいか!
    ハハ!And that CM had me in stitches ^___^

  • Xaromir

    I want to know more about Japanese theme parks now. O.o