Awa Odori (阿波おどり) – Summer Festival in Tokushima Prefecture

Tokushima Prefecture is located on Shikoku island and they hold one of the most famous dance festivals across Japan once a year in summer. Awa Odori has a very long history whose origins date back 400 years and everybody knows this traditional arts in Japan. The festival attracts large numbers of domestic and international tourists. In total, around 1.3 million people flock to Tokushima prefecture for the Awa Odori (ref. The population of Tokushima City is only around 263,000). You can imagine it’s a full of energetic and lively activity of the year.

“ODORU AHOU NI, MIRU AHOU. ONAJI AHOU NARA ODORA-NYA SON, SON” which translates like "Fools dance and fools watch, if both are fools, you might as well dance". This is the lyrics to a common dance song. Based on this lyrics, all dancers and spectators will dance on the streets of downtown Tokushima.

I have a photographer friend who is a big fan of this dance festival. He describes how the entire Tokushima city is resounding with energetic festival music and dance during the festival. With this up-tempo rhythm festival music, people will be transported with joy.

Excited by the music filling the streets, people young and old are waving their hands in the air and dancing their hearts away. There's a saying that if you raise your hands and move your legs forward you're doing the Awa odori. That is to say, it's easy for anyone to join in and look like they're doing the dance. That’s Awa odori and its attraction. Even if you don’t know how to dance, don’t worry. Anyone from the world is welcome so long as they smile and enjoy the festival.

If you have a chance to visit Tokushima, I would recommend you to buy Sudachi flavored products (such as ice cream, vodka coolers, ice pops, and soft drinks) as souvenirs. It’s a type of citrus popular in Japan and they are mostly produced in Tokushima.

Photo by Shigeru ALakawa (Photographer)

3 hours from Osaka or 2 hours from Kobe by highway bus. Tokushima is also famous for Naruto Whirlpools (please see my post about Naruto at http://www.deepjapan.org/a/4173) and Naruto Kintoki sweet potatoes. It is also known as an origin of the Shikoku pilgrimage route.

by Hideki Tazawa

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