The Awa Odori whose traditions have been constantly evolving
The 400-year-old Awa Odori, since its castle town beginnings in 1586, has developed into a popular amusement that underwent further remarkable development especially after the Second World War as a symbol of Japan’s renaissance before becoming the folk dance of today that is representative of Japan. It is performed everywhere in the country in large numbers but the Japan’s largest Awa Odori is performed in the city of Tokushima. About 100,000 dancers take part during the 4 days of the festival with 1.3 million watchers. There are dance stages set up in Tokushima’s parks and streets as the Awa Odori takes firm hold of the city in a fever grip via Odori Road. Groups of dancers known as ren dance down the streets as they are accompanied by shamisen, taiko drums and flutes playing in duple time.
A festival that also warmly embraces observers to join in the fun
In the daytime during the festival, the Senbatsu Awa Odori Taikai (Awa Odori Invitational Tournament) is held at Tokushima Bunka Center and Awagin Hall at which you can purchase advance tickets and tickets for that day’s performances to watch the competition. The traditional Awa Odori is performed on stage by famous ren representing dance troupes and you can fully enjoy refined dancing of a high degree. On the other hand, you can join in the Awa Odori during the evening performances. On each of the 4 days of the festival at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., you can participate for free by joining the Niwaka Ren which meets at two places, Tokushima City Hall Citizens’ Plaza and Motomachi Odori Plaza. Following lessons and rehearsals given by dancers from famous ren, you can head for the venues so that even beginners can happily take part in the Awa Odori and get surrounded by the area’s passion. Also, at Tokushima City Hall Citizens’ Plaza, you will want to take advantage of the daily free rentals of happi coats to get into the spirit of things. Get that full sensation of the festival as you dance and shout “Yatto sa! Yatto sa!” which means “Long time, no see! Been well?”