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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Festivals & Events

Awa Odori 徳島市阿波おどり

Dance for days at the most famous festival in Shikoku

The Awa-Odori Festival is Tokushima’s most famous attraction 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 festival of folk dance.

Tips

  • The ren group dancers performing in the evening in downtown Tokushima
  • The hapi and yukata; the traditional uniforms of the dancers inspired by their local heritage
  • Six stages set up for both professional and amateur dancers

How to Get There

If you are traveling to the area by airplane, you can fly from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Tokushima.

If you are coming by rail, take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line to Okayama Station, then travel from Okayama to Tokushima Station via the JR Seto-Ohashi Kotoku Line.

Expressway bus services from Osaka Station to Tokushima Station are also available.

Quick Facts

This is one of Japan's most famous cultural events, attracting over 1 million people

Awa-Odori dates back over 400 years

The festival is held annually from August 12-15

A city transformed

While Tokushima City is normally fairly quiet, the city is transformed each year from August 12 to 15 as nearly 1.2 million people — including spectators and dancers from all over Japan — gather in the downtown area for the festival. The Awa-Odori dance originated here more than 400 years ago, although its popularity has spread beyond the prefecture and is performed in other areas of Japan including Tokyo.

Dancing in the streets

During this festival, major thoroughfares are cordoned off and spectator stands are set up at various points for specific dance competitions. Numerous street food stalls known as yatai appear around the river areas, and the entire downtown area of Tokushima takes on the air of a lively outdoor festival, drawing comparisons with the carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Awa-Odori origin - Theory 1

There are three theories of the origins of the Awa Odori. The first theory attributes the root of the dance to a local variation of Bon-odori dancing, which is performed throughout Japan during the summer for the Obon holiday.

Awa-Odori origins - Theory 2

The second theory suggests that Awa Odori is the result of the completion and subsequent celebration of Tokushima Castle — built by Hachisuka Iemasa in 1587. Lord Hachisuka provided rice wine to the people of the castle town to mark the occassion, and they danced freely with wild abandon, regardless of rank or seniority. This eventually became the Awa Odori dance.

Awa-Odori origins - Theory 3

The third theory argues that the Awa Odori dance has roots in furyu dance. Furyu is said to be the source of Japanese Noh plays. The Awa Odori style of people dancing in a group called a ren is said to have been influenced by the furyu dance.

According to the Miyoshi district records from 1663, there was a furyu dance at Shozui Castle in 1578 held by Masayasu Sogo (a member of the Miyoshi family) and the theory holds that this is the start of the Awa Odori dance.

Tokushima City - the center of Awa-Odori

Tokushima City began promoting the festival as a tourist event during the early Showa period (1926-1989), and it got its name at this time. While Awa Odori dances take place all over the prefecture during the festival period, the dance performed in Tokushima City is the most important event.

All are welcome

To dance in the Awa Odori festival, you need to be registered as part of a ren, or a dance troupe. However, if you haven’t and still want to participate, you can join the Niwaka Ren. There is no dress requirement and before you dance on stage, you will be given lessons by a professional dance group.

Awa-Odori at any time

If you are unable to attend the event in the summer, you can still experience Awa Odori all year round at the Awa Odori Kaikan located in the center of the city. The ren group Awa no Kaze (Wind of Awa) performs daytime shows, while a different famous professional ren group performs every night in the evening. The ren group members are eager to teach the simple dance moves and invite visitors to perform along with them.

As an old Tokushima saying goes, “the dancing fool and the watching fool are both fools, so why not dance?”