If you have ever met some Japanese ladies who are wearing their beautiful Yukata (浴衣) as well as the gyoza-like straw hats, just follow them and you will be in the best dancing festival in Japan! Awa Odori Dancing Festival (阿波踊り) is originated in Tokushima (徳島県) way back to 400 years ago. Each year from 12 to 15 August, all the best Awa dancers from all over Japan will go to Tokushima to perform their techniques. Now what? You are not staying in front of the screen only right? Wanted to join the best Awa dancers and parade along the street? Let’s go to join one of the dance groups and dance together with everyone! ⁽⁽٩(๑˃̶͈̀ ᗨ ˂̶͈́)۶⁾⁾
Join a “Ren” and start dancing in one of the biggest Awa Odori festivals in Japan
Each year in August during the Obon (お盆) season (an annual buddhist event for commemorating our ancestors), many dance festivals will be held in Japan. One of them is your favourite Awa Odori (actually it’s my favourite ٩(♡ε♡ )۶)!! As this festival has been existing for hundreds of years, even though you might have heard that it began from a celebration after the completion of the Tokushima Castle and townspeople were provided with lots of sake who got drunk and began to dance, actually the original purpose of celebration is no longer trackable.
There are three biggest Awa Odori in Japan: Tokushima (徳島), Koenji (高円寺), and Minami-Koshigaya (南越谷). And of course the Tokushima one is the most famous! A group of dancers is called a “Ren”（連）. The different “Ren” can be the groups of dancers from different schools, companies, organisations, professional dancers, or even the general public. You can ask to join a Ren and start dancing around like a fool! And that’s what I am going to do! ٩( ๑^ ꇴ^)۶ YOhooo!
Spend few minutes to learn the dance and be ready to sing – it’s easy and funny
If you are still having the image of girls wearing the gyoza-like straw hats that I have mentioned earlier, I have to complete your image as guys compose an important part of the whole picture as well! We knew it by intuition that it is not a girly party right?! We need the wild, cool guys to heat up the festival as well! ♡〜٩( ˃́▿˂̀ )۶〜♡
There are three main types of dances: Onna Odori (女踊り)/ women’s dance, Otoko Odori (男踊り)/ men’s dance, and Happi Odori (ハッピ踊り)/either men or women. Each of their outfit is different. Apart from the dancers, there are musicians (なりもの) who will be playing all kinds of traditional japanese instruments such as the three-string shamisen (三味線), the japanese transverse bamboo flute shinobue (篠笛), the japanese drums taiko (太鼓) and the bell Kane (鐘).
Below is a quite good video tutorial created by the group Kikusuiren (菊水連), with presentations of the dances of both the men and women’s sides, as well as a basic introduction of the japanese instruments. Sorry that the translation in the video is only available in french, but it is more important to “learn the movements”! ヾ(≧∇≦*)ゝ
Now the “Ren” started the parade with their dances, they will sing at the same time! The song is called Awa Yoshikono (阿波よしこの). Dancing and singing at the same time is an open secret of maximising happiness. Do you agree? So, let’s be greedy for more happiness and sing together! ٩( ๑^ ꇴ^)۶
踊る阿呆に Odoru ahou ni The dancers are fools
見る阿呆 Miru ahou The watchers are fools
同じ阿呆なら Onaji ahou nara Both are fools alike so
踊らな損、損 Odorana son, son Why not dance?
If you don’t know how to sing, there is really no problem! Don’t be sad like a deflated balloon! The dancers also do some call and response patterns such as “Yattosa, yattosa”, “Hayaccha yaccha”, “Erai yaccha, erai yaccha”, and “Yoi, yoi, yoi, yoi”. Sometimes when you respond, you just need to repeat what they call. Being highly literate, you must be doubting what those words actually mean. What’s the DNA of the dance again? Being foolish! Fools don’t always speak logically. There is no specific meaning with those words. They are mainly there for encouraging the dancers. ٩(๑˃́ꇴ˂̀๑)۶