Awaodori, A Unique Dance Festival

Yeah, here you go for another off-topic post, again about some aspects of Japan. This time I’ll share with you my experience with the Awaodori, a dance festival held every year in the small city of Tokushima, in the 4th main island of Japan, Shikoku. Basically the whole town becomes a dancing stage for its inhabitants and their traditional yet energetic dance style.

The key element of the Awaodori is the costumes worn by the dancing women. They wear these kind of chinese hats, yet folded in two and placed on their head so that one end points up and the other end down. On top of that, they wear some kind of kimono restricting the movement of their legs, while slightly separated below knees. They wear traditional wooden shoes known as geta, and dance in a way that is very, very painful for feet, constantly putting pressure in between the toes. I have heard you are mostly certain to bleed if you dance like that for several hours. I would not be surprised. The dance starts at night, because it takes place in August, and August in Shikoku is burning hot during the day. First, you see some small groups forming in the streets here and there, starting to dance as the sun starts to go down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeKzHFdrvY4

Not only adults are allowed to dance. Kids take part too, but they can’t wear the official outfit of adult women, so instead the wear something lighter, and their dance is more simple. Here’s an example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mA4eju5K8k

If you are wondering what they are singing, the main part is odori ha yamerarenai (踊りは辞められない)which means I can’t stop dancing. Very appropriate 🙂

There’s a number of different groups dancing their own variation of the dance across the city, and as you move around you can see all sorts of styles around the same idea. Here’s some people dancing in circles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IQTMyzUUPE

Some, more coordinated dances:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMW5S3930Lo

What’s really great is that you can literally find dancers everywhere. Here, another band moving in the commerce streets, with a very energetic, fast dancing style:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuoU-Lj-B_k

The music you hear is live, and usually a combination of drums and flutes. Here’s a shot of the flute players.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO5X_-SMy8Y

Of course, on top of the little streets, there is also a main street where a kind of long parade takes place (and that parts goes live on TV), but I find it more interesting to stay away a little an enjoy discovering new dancers as you move around the city.

Yet all good things come to an end, and people go back home. In their costumes. Just like Batman shopping with his cape in the supermarket.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5OGqf-Hp9Y

I’d recommend anyone visiting Japan to try to see this event. It spans over a whole week and is incredibly fun and exhilarating. This is now one of my favorites festivals in Japan.

Note: All videos are from me. Let me know if you have any question or comments!

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2 Comments on "Awaodori, A Unique Dance Festival"

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rohezal
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I realy like your post about Japan 🙂