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July 2018

Cultural Article

AWAODORI: A Japanese Traditional Dance Festival Held in Tokushima

by Daisuke Miyamoto


There are many different kinds of festivals in the world, and we can learn the unique characteristics of each country from their festivals. Japan has many kinds of festivals in every region. GION-festival, TENJIN-festival and KANDA-festival are the most famous in Japan, and these three are recognized as Japan's major ones. Many tourists from foreign countries visit so that they may enjoy seeing the festival. In this article I would like to introduce a unique, Japanese traditional dance festival called AWAODORI, which has been performed in Tokushima for about 400 years. Why? Because not only can you observe the festival, but you can also easily join in.


AWAODORI is one of Japan's three major BON ODORI-festivals, which is a type of Japanese traditional dance festival held in the summer. It is held all over Tokushima prefecture and has recently been held in other locations as well, but Tokushima City's festival is the biggest with over one million people attending last summer's festivities. AWA was once the name of Tokushima, and ODORI means dance. There are two types of dance forms. One is called Man-dance which expresses briskness, and the other is called Woman-dance which expresses glamour. Men cannot dance Woman-dance but women can dance both. This is the rule, but the dance forms are similar. The biggest difference between the two are the costumes.



Those wearing white costumes are dancing Man-dance.  Those wearing pink costumes are dancing Woman-dance. (Daisuke Miyamoto)


How do you dance AWAODORI? Don't worry. It's very simple. Just wave your hands over your head and step to the traditional music which is played by Japanese flutes, drums, bamboo, and chimes. How do you join in? Don't be afraid. Many groups called "REN", consisting of dancers and music players, parade the street. The REN is formed by region, business company, or some other distinction. When you find the municipal office a REN group, you can join it if you want.


Finally, I would like to leave you with a famous proverb about AWAODORI. It goes, "there are silly watching people and silly dancing people. You might as well dance if you're going to be silly anyway." The most important thing is to be silly and enjoy the dance!!



It is very popular with children as well. (Daisuke Miyamoto)


The finale of the dance -they're so excited!!

(IMG_4999 by shalma is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

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