Awa Odori Festival

Dance for days at the most famous festival in Shikoku

The Awa Odori is Tokushima’s most famous festival 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 folk dance.

Don’t Miss

The Awa Odori festival in Tokushima City is a vibrant and energetic event that should not be missed. The festival takes place from August 12 to 15 every year and attracts over one million people from all over japan. The highlight of the festival is the Awa Odori dance, which is performed by groups of dancers known as ren.

The Awa Odori dance is a traditional folk dance that originated in Tokushima more than 400 years ago. It is characterized by its lively and energetic movements, as well as its distinctive costumes. The dancers, both male and female, wear happi and yukata, which are traditional Japanese garments inspired by the local heritage.

During the festival, six stages are set up throughout the city for the dancers to perform. These stages provide a great vantage point for spectators to watch the dance and immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere.

How to Get There

If you are traveling to the area by airplane, you can fly from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Tokushima. Alternatively, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Okayama Station and then travel on to Tokushima Station via the JR Seto-Ohashi Kotoku Line. If you prefer to travel by bus, expressway bus services from Osaka Station to Tokushima Station are also available.

Quick Facts

The Awa Odori is one of Japan’s most famous cultural events, attracting over one million people each year. The festival dates back over 400 years and is held annually from August 12 to 15.

A City Transformed

While Tokushima City is normally fairly quiet, it undergoes a dramatic transformation during the Awa Odori festival. The downtown area becomes a hub of activity as nearly one million people gather to celebrate and participate in the festival. The festival breathes new life into the city, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere that is unlike anything else.

Dancing in the Streets

During the Awa Odori festival, the major thoroughfares of Tokushima City are cordoned off to allow for the dancers to perform. Spectator stands are set up at various points along the streets, providing a great view of the dance. Additionally, numerous street food stalls known as yatai appear around the river areas, offering a wide variety of delicious local cuisine.

The entire downtown area of Tokushima City takes on the air of a lively outdoor festival, drawing comparisons with the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The streets are filled with the sound of traditional Japanese music and the sight of dancers moving in unison, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

Awa Odori Origin Theories

There are three theories regarding the origins of the Awa Odori dance. The first theory suggests that it is a local variation of the Bon-odori dance, which is performed throughout Japan during the summer for the Obon holiday. The second theory proposes that it originated as a celebration of the completion of Tokushima Castle, with Lord Hachisuka providing rice wine to the townspeople, who danced freely with wild abandon. The third theory argues that the Awa Odori dance has roots in furyu dance, which is said to be the source of Japanese Noh plays.

Tokushima City – The Center of Awa-Odori

Tokushima City is the epicenter of the Awa Odori festival. While Awa Odori dances take place all over the prefecture during the festival period, the Awa Odori performed in Tokushima City is the most important event. The city has been promoting the festival as a tourist attraction since the early Showa period, and it has become an iconic event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of Tokushima.

All Are Welcome

To participate in the Awa Odori festival, one needs to be registered as part of a ren, or a dance troupe. However, even if you haven’t registered, you can still join the Niwaka Ren, a group specifically created for non-registered participants. No costume is required, and you can even take a lesson from a famous dance troupe before joining in the festivities.

Awa-Odori at Any Time

If you are unable to attend the Awa Odori festival in the summer, you can still experience the dance all year round at the Awa Odori Kaikan. Located in the center of Tokushima City, the Awa Odori Kaikan offers daytime shows performed by various dance troupes, as well as evening performances by a different famous troupe each night. Visitors are also invited to learn the steps of the Awa Odori dance and join in the performance alongside the ren group members.

As an old Tokushima saying goes, “The dancing fool and the watching fool are both fools, so why not dance?” The Awa Odori festival is a celebration of life, culture, and community, and it is an experience that should not be missed. Whether you are a participant or a spectator, the festival offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions of Tokushima and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Address And Maps Location:

1-4 Minamiuchi-machi, Tokushima-shi, Tokushima-ken

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