The Ground Shakes as 100,000 People Join the “Awa Odori” Traditional Dance Festival!

Everybody comes together and dances as one

A group of dancers at the Awa Dance Festival is called a “ren,” which means a companion or a friend. The Awa dance begins with solo practice, then training as a group before finally becoming a “ren.” Individual moves are a no-no. Traditionally, female participants would strive for elegance and men for a display of power, but everyone is on equal footing here. Child performers are a big part of the celebration, too.

People from all over the world take part in Awa Odori

At Tokushima’s original Awa Dance Festival, you’ll witness over 1000 different “ren,” formed famous by troupes, business associations and other groups who all go through a tough practice regimen. And don’t worry, you can take part in the action in the special “Wa Odori” event. Over 100,000 people join the revelry every night for four nights straight. For the traditional “otoko (men’s) odori” men wear a “happi” coat or a rolled up yukata to perform the “hanten odori” or “yukata odori” dance styles respectively. The bold and sometimes comical movements are a sight to behold.

“otoko odori”
Men perform the bold “otoko odori”

Conversely, women usually don an “amigasa” braided straw hat and geta clogs when they perform their traditional “onna (women’s) odori”. Their graceful movements hold the similar allure of synchronized swimming.

“onna odori”
Women mimic flowers blooming in their “onna odori”

The various instruments that inspire the Awa Odori dance and keep the tempo high are collectively known as “narimono”. The flute defines the main melody, with the shamisen following its lead. The low, thunderous beat of the large taiko drum makes a primal connection with spectators, while the rhythmic beats of the smaller shimedaiko and tsuzumi (finger tap drum) sets the pace for the whole dance. The conductor of the musical troupe plays a bell, which rings out above the whole sound.

Watch from the Stands or Join the Group!

Musical performers pass by the spectator stands
Taiko, shamisen, flutes, and bells provide Awa Odori musical accompaniment at the Aibahama performance area

When Awa Odori is on, there are special paid spectator stands called “sajiki” set up along procession areas throughout Tokushima City. Same-day tickets will only set you back approximately ¥1,200 to ¥2,000.
The party happens at five main locations: Aibahama, Tokushima Municipal Office’s Shiyakusho-mae, Minamiuchi-machi and Konyamachi open-air dance plazas, In addition, the Awa Odori Kaikan indoor venue is one of the best places to witness the top-ranked “ren”. Awa Odori takes the town by storm!

If you want to get in on the action, visitors can head to the Hashimoto Soba restaurant in the Shinmachibashi Kitadzume district. Spontaneous odori pop up in parking lots and public squares, too!
Refer to the “Niwaka-ren rendezvous” map below for more places where you can join the frenzy of Awa Odori yourself! Times listed on the website.

The two Niwaka-ren rendezvous points are the Motomachi Dance square and the Citizen square. Walkable from JR Tokushima station.

Awa Odori

[Event Dates] Saturday August 12th – 15th 2017

[Getting There] Appropriately 15 minutes on foot from JR Tokushima station

[Contact] Tokushima-city Tourism Association