The Awa Odori is a huge dance festival that takes over Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture, for four days in early August. It features some 100,000 fired-up dancers and attracts as many as 1.3 million spectators from home and abroad. Our traveler B.T. watches the dancing on the first day. On the second, he learns a few steps and chorus before jumping into the frenzied dancing himself. He also takes a side trip to Wakimachi, an old town near Tokushima City, where he enjoys its traditional townscape and experiences indigo dyeing. At the end of his journey, he heads out by boat to observe giant tidal whirlpools.
Inquiry: Tokushima City Tourism Association (+81) 88 – 622 – 4010
Address: Minami-machi, Wakimachi, Mima City, Tokushima Prefecture
Inquiry: Mima City Tourism Association (+81) 883 – 53 – 8599
Ropeway fare: 610 yen per person
Address: 2 – 20 Shinmachibashi, Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture
Traveler: B.T. > More Info
Occupation:Interpreter-Translator, Model, Actor
Length of residence in Japan:9 years
Reason:I have wanted to come back to Japan since discovering that my family lived on an air force base here when I was a baby.
I first heard about the Awa Odori when I was an English teacher nine years ago in a textbook that my school was using. None of the teachers or students really knew anything about the festival, so it was always in the back of my mind as something I would like to see before leaving Japan.
Looking back on the trip, Tokushima was great. The people were really fun and welcoming, and the natural scenery was beautiful. We got to see and learn about the Yoshinogawa River, which historically had a tremendous influence on the industry in Tokushima. We also visited the town of Wakimachi and saw some of Japan's pre-modern architecture and fire prevention technology, as well as aizome (indigo dyeing), and local dishes. Even with the strong smell, the aizome workshop was a lot of fun, and I am already thinking about going back for another try.
Then there was the festival. I really love seeing how cities and towns in Japan's countryside come to life for their annual festivals. You can hear the taiko drums and flutes from mid-day, and it feels like the whole city is on vacation. There was something majestic about the onna odori (women's dance). I don't know if it was the hat, or the way they moved their hands, but I could watch that dance all day. The otoko odori (men's dance) was cool, too. One of my favorite elements in a dance, or in a country, or just in life, is diversity so I was really excited to see that many of the groups (called ren) had added their own flare to the Awa Odori. It would also be really cool if there were a Nihon Yokai Ren (Japanese monster group) featuring tengu, kappa, and other famous monsters. Maybe someone will start that ren in time for next year's festival…