Awa-odori: a 400 Year Old Tradition

Every year, from the 12th to the 15th of August, the city of Tokushima becomes animated with the Awa Dance Festival, attracting more than 1.2 million tourists from all over the world

  • Awa-odori: a 400 Year Old Tradition
  • Awa-odori: a 400 Year Old Tradition
  • Awa-odori: a 400 Year Old Tradition
  • Awa-odori: a 400 Year Old Tradition

Awa Odori, the Awa Dance Festival, originated approximately 400 years ago. Awa is the former name of Tokushima, in Shikoku.There is no single accepted theory about the origin of the festival, but at least three. Some maintain that the Awa Dance was first performed to celebrate the completion of Tokushima Castle. 
Others argue it is a local variation of Bon-odori, the dance performed during O-bon, the Japanese Buddhist festival honouring the spirits of one’s ancestors. Finally, the third theory suggests that Awa Odori has roots in fūryūdance, which is also believed to be the source of Noh theatre.
In the Edo period, the Tokushima clan feudal administration issued edicts that prohibited dancing due to public order concerns. Samurai were particularly forbidden to attend public celebrations, in order to prevent them from bringing shame on themselves with drunken skirmishes and misbehaviour. Hachisuka Ichigaku was imprisoned for participating in the Awa Dance Festival. However, prohibition could not kill the enthusiasm of the people of Awa for the festival.
Awa Odori was patronised by wealthy merchants who became key players in the cultural exchange between Awa and the rest of the country, contributing to the rhythm of the Awa Dance with songs and dances from elsewhere.
There are two styles of Awa Odori: otoko-odori(male dancing), which is dynamic and ludicrous, and onna-odori(female dancing), which is seductive and elegant. The dancers form teams called renand compete against one another.
Awa Odori begins in the evening, when men,women and children take to the streets and fill the venue with music, dances and excitement, to the rhythm of the songAwa Yoshikono, played on shamisenand taikodrums.The main spectacle takes place every evening from 6 to 10. Daytime performances will be held in different stage areas around the city centre. On 11th August, the Asty Tokushima Indoor Arena will host a pre-festival show with the most celebrated dancing teams.
There is an entrance fee for the performances, with free and reserved seats. Additionally, a dance hall will be set up, where tourists will be offered the opportunity to learn the basics of Awa Odori.
A video of the 2017 edition is viewable here

Author : The Slowear Journal


Tokushima  | Awa Odori  | August  | summer festival  |

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