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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
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 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
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. 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
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. 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
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
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 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 Festival 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.

Don't Miss

  • 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 Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Okayama Station, then travel on 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 one million people

Awa Odori Festival dates back over 400 years

The festival is held annually from August 12 to 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 theories

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.

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 occasion, and they danced freely with wild abandon, regardless of rank or seniority. This eventually became the Awa Odori dance.

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?”

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