Tokushima Comes Alive with the Awa Odori Dance Festival
One of Japan’s most famous festivals draws over a million people to cheer on (and take part in) a parade of colorful dancers
The Awa Odori (Awa Dance) is one of Japan’s most exuberant dance festivals. It dates from the 16th century, and though its exact origins are unclear, it includes ties to the bon-odori, the summer dance that takes place throughout Japan. And though Awa -Odori performances also take place in various areas, nowhere is it celebrated with more enthusiasm than Tokushima. Over a million visitors make their way to this city to witness—or take part in—the dancing.
Every year, from August 12- to 15, the city streets come alive with beating drums, stomping geta clogs and high-spirited calls of “Yattosa!” and “Yatto yatto!” as a seemingly endless parade of groups perform before a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. The dancers wear traditional peaked straw hats, and move to the music of a folk song brought from Kyoto by indigo merchants.
The electric atmosphere and infectious energy must be experienced to be believed. If you’re unable to visit during festival time, when you can watch from the spectator seats or join one of the groups open to non-professionals, there are daily performances at the Awa Odori Kaikan. Besides noon and evening dances (guests can join in for the latter), museum displays describe the history and traditions of the dance.
Tokushima-shi City Center, Tokushima-ken