Awa Odori / 阿波踊り.

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The Awa Dance Festival (阿波踊り, Awa Odori) is held from 12 to 15 August as part of the *Obon festival in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku. Awa is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima Prefecture, and odori means “dance”.

The Awa Odori festival grew out of the tradition of the Bon Odori which is danced as part of the Bon “Festival of the Dead”, a Japanese Buddhist celebration where the spirits of deceased ancestors are said to visit their living relatives for a few days of the year.

Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians known as ren (連) dance through the streets, typically accompanied by the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional obon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the streets.

Awa Odori’s independent existence as a huge, citywide dance party is popularly believed to have begun in 1586 when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa, the daimyō of Awa Province hosted a drunken celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle (map). The locals, having consumed a great amount of sake, began to drunkenly weave and stumble back and forth. Others picked up commonly available musical instruments and began to play a simple, rhythmic song, to which the revelers invented lyrics.

Not every group has a singer, but dancers and musicians will frequently break out into the Awa Yoshikono chant as they parade through the streets:

  • 踊る阿呆に / Odoru ahou ni / The dancers are fools
  • 見る阿呆 / Miru ahou / The watchers are fools
  • 同じ阿呆なら / Onaji ahou nara / Both are fools alike so
  • 踊らな損、損 / Odorana son, son / Why not dance?

During the daytime a restrained dance called Nagashi is performed, but at night the dancers switch to a frenzied dance called Zomeki. As suggested by the lyrics of the chant, spectators are often encouraged to join the dance.

Kōenji (map), an area of Tokyo, also has an Kōenji Awa Odori Festival, modeled on Tokushima’s, which was started in 1956 by urban migrants from Tokushima Prefecture. It is the second largest Awa Dance Festival in Japan, with an average of 188 groups composed of 12,000 dancers, attracting 1.2 million visitors.


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Awaodori Festival in Tokushima, Japan.

Awaodori, a Japanese traditional dance originated in Tokushima with a history of over 400 years.

Awaodori Festival held in Tokushima from Aug 12th to 15th, one of the largest festivals in Japan, was visited by more than a million people this year, where the elegance of female dancing and the dynamism of male dancing attracted all the spectators. Not only spectator areas but all the streets of the city-center was filled with its rhythm and enthusiasm. We captured some of the most impressive moments of these 4 days of the festival and made this movie. Watch it now and feel the spirit of Awaodori.

video source: 徳島新聞動画 TPV (Tokushima Press Video) /

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