Awa Odori: The Dance of the Fools

Awa Odori is a traditional dance festival originating in Tokushima City in 1586, when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa of Awa, the former name of Tokushima prefecture, hosted a celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle.

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 revellers invented lyrics.” (Wikipedia)

Awa Odori is believed to be the largest dance festival in Japan which attracts over a million tourists every year. Because of its popularity, other cities started to hold their own Awa Odori.

This year, I’d been to three Awa Odori festivals: (1) Kagurazaka in Tokyo, (2) Yamato City in Kanagawa, and (3) Koenji in Tokyo.

(1) Kagurazaka, Tokyo | 24th July2010



(2) Yamato, Kanagawa | 25th July 2010

In Awa Odori, women wear a yukata, a summer kimono made of light cotton, and amigasa, a hat made of woven rush grass, and dance in a more stylish way. They turn the palms inward and upward, and gracefully move the wrists. (




(3) Koenji, Tokyo | 29th August 2010

The troupe sings “Ya-to-sa” as they dance through the city streets. The lyrics of the Awa Odori festival song include the phrase, “the dancing fool and the watching fool are both fools, so let’s dance!

Odoru ahou ni, Miru ahou, Onaji ahou nara, Odorana son, son
(Crazy Dancers / with other crazies watching them / Since both alike are mad / You might as well dance.)





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  1. By Illegal Property Spain, on October 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Illegal Property Spain,…

    Awa Odori: The Dance of the Fools – The world is so Kalandrakas……


  1. GREAT shots, Jesslee! That third one from Yamato is especially fabulous. I haven’t really looked at my Koenji ones, but I was in a tight spot, so they are mainly portraits and don’t get as much of the total atmosphere.

    Now we’ll both have matsuri withdrawals, I think…

    Posted August 31, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  2. @Laura: Thanks,Laura. Same with me in Koenji, didn’t have the space to get good shots, and I only stayed there for an hour.

    The Yamato one was really good. Not too crowded but still the atmosphere is the same. It was a great time shooting with you.

    End of summer means less festivals. :-(

    Posted August 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Great shots here. :-) Didn’t get a single awaodori picture this year. Still a few more festivals this summer if you’re interested – there’s Hatsudai on 23rd September and Kawasaki on 2nd October that I’m aware of.

    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink