Dance for days at the most famous festival in Shikoku
The Awa Odori is Tokushima’s most famous festival and the subject of national attention every August when well over a million people turn out in the streets of Tokushima City to watch or participate in this traditional folk dance.
The Awa Odori festival dates back over 400 years and is held annually from August 12 to 15. It is one of japan‘s most famous cultural events, attracting over one million people. The festival is a celebration of dance, music, and tradition, and it is a must-see event for both locals and tourists.
During the Awa Odori festival, the city of Tokushima is transformed into a vibrant and lively place. Normally a quiet city, Tokushima comes alive during the festival as nearly one million people gather in the downtown area. The streets are cordoned off, spectator stands are set up, and the entire city takes on the air of a lively outdoor festival.
The Awa Odori dance originated in Tokushima more than 400 years ago, but its popularity has spread beyond the prefecture and is now performed in other areas of Japan, including Tokyo. The dance is characterized by its energetic and lively movements, with dancers moving in sync to the beat of traditional music. The dancers wear traditional uniforms called happi and yukata, which are inspired by their local heritage.
There are three theories about the origins of the Awa Odori dance. The first theory suggests that it is a local variation of Bon-odori dancing, which is performed throughout Japan during the summer for the Obon holiday. The second theory attributes the dance to the completion and subsequent celebration of Tokushima Castle, where Lord Hachisuka provided rice wine to the people of the castle town, and they danced freely with wild abandon. The third theory argues that the Awa Odori dance has roots in furyu dance, which is said to be the source of Japanese Noh plays.
Tokushima City is the center of Awa Odori and the most important location for the festival. While Awa Odori dances take place all over the prefecture during the festival period, the performances in Tokushima City are the main attraction. The city began promoting the festival as a tourist event during the early Showa period, and it got its name at this time.
To participate in the Awa Odori festival, you need to be registered as part of a dance troupe called a ren. However, if you haven’t registered, you can still join the Niwaka Ren, where no costume is required, and you can take a lesson from a famous dance troupe before you start.
If you are unable to attend the Awa Odori festival in the summer, you can still experience it all year round at the Awa Odori Kaikan located in the center of Tokushima City. The Kaikan features daytime shows by dance troupes as well as evening performances by different famous troupes. Visitors are invited to perform along with the ren group members and learn the steps to Awa Odori.
The Awa Odori festival is not just about watching the dance, but also about participating and immersing yourself in the vibrant atmosphere. The festival brings together people from all walks of life, regardless of age or background, to celebrate and enjoy the traditional dance and music. It is a unique opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Tokushima and Japan.
In addition to the Awa Odori festival, Tokushima offers other attractions and activities for visitors. The city is known for its beautiful natural landscapes, including the Naruto Whirlpools and the scenic Iya Valley. Visitors can also explore historical sites such as Tokushima Castle and the Otsuka Museum of Art, which houses the world’s largest collection of ceramic plate replicas.
To get to Tokushima, there are several transportation options available. If you are traveling by airplane, you can fly from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Tokushima. If you prefer to travel by rail, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Okayama Station and then transfer to the JR Seto-Ohashi Kotoku Line to reach Tokushima Station. Expressway bus services from Osaka Station to Tokushima Station are also available.
In conclusion, the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima City is a must-see event for anyone interested in Japanese culture and traditions. The festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the vibrant energy and lively atmosphere of the Awa Odori dance, and to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Tokushima. Whether you choose to watch the performances or participate in the dance, the Awa Odori festival is a memorable and unforgettable experience. So mark your calendars for August 12 to 15 and join the millions of people who come together to celebrate this iconic festival in Shikoku.
Address And Maps Location:
1-4 Minamiuchi-machi, Tokushima-shi, Tokushima-ken