From Awa Odori to Rafting - 6 Activities Unique to Tokushima


Written by MATCHA-PR


Tokushima, famous for its Awa odori dances, is a place where you can encounter traditional culture and nature sights of a rare beauty. This article features a series of activities that can only be experienced in Tokushima, such as rafting, Awa odori dance

Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku region is famous for the Awa odori dance, a traditional dance that spans over 400 years.

This region is also known for its traditional crafts, such as aizome ("indigo dye") or the Shikoku pilgrims - ohenro, as well as for the beautiful nature. In this article, we will introduce traditional performing arts such as the Awa odori dance and other outdoor activities that you can experience on your trip to Tokushima.

1. Shikoku henro - Pilgrimage to Ryōzenji Temple

Shikoku henro  is a pilgrimage route (reijō junpai (※1)) spanning over 1,400 km between sacred places related to saintly figures such as Kōbō daishi or Kūkai. It is believed that the beginning of this practice had been the travels of ascetic monks around Shikoku in search of traces of Kūkai's teaching.

Among these sacred places, the Ryōzenji Temple 霊山寺 is the starting point of the pilgrimage circuit that comprises 88 sacred places located around Shikoku. The first 23 and the 66th of the holy places in the circuit are located in Tokushima prefecture. Some of these places have accommodation facilities (called shukubō (※2)) available for the pilgrims.

※1… reijō junpai 霊場巡拝 is a journey to several temples and sacred places, performed as an act of religious devotion
※2… shukubō 宿坊 is an accommodation facility within a temple, used by monks and pilgrims.

2. Aizome 藍染め ("Indigo dyeing")

Aizome 藍染め is one of the representative traditional crafts of Tokushima. The indigo color (sukumo 蒅) used in dyeing is produced here in Tokushima. The tradition of producing indigo color has been handed down from generation to generation and the indigo color created in Tokushima is called "Awa ai" 阿波藍. Ai no kan is an institution located in the former house of a merchant of ai dye. Here you can learn more about the history of the aizome craft, see an exhibition explaining the production process, as well as experience for yourself indigo dyeing.

3. Awa odori dance 阿波おどり

Awa odori dance 阿波おどり is a large event held in Tokushima for over 400 years now. In recent years, there have been requests for Awa odori dance to be performed at international events, and it has become as famous as the Rio Carnival when it comes to the passion that the dancers put in their dance. In summer, awa-odori festivals are held all around Japan, but the one held each year between the 12th-15th of August in Tokushima city, is the largest festival of the kind, and is visited each year by as many as one million people, both from Japan and from abroad.

No matter the season, at the Awa odori kaikan, you can enjoy watching the Awa odori dance. During the performance, there will be lectures on how to dance Awa odori, so you can join the dancers.

4. The Awa Jurōbee Yashiki  阿波十郎兵衛屋敷

One of the traditional performing arts transmitted in Tokushima prefecture is Awa ningyō jōruri ("puppet theater from Awa"). It is a puppet theatre that has been designated Important Cultural Property of the country. At the Awa Jurōbee Yashiki, you can watch daily performances of Awa ningyō jōruri. In addition to enjoying a ningyō jōruri performance accompanied by the sound of the shamisen, in the exhibition room you can view puppets and objects used on the actual stage.

5. The Shikoku Migiagari Road Ride

In southern Tokushima area called Shikoku no Migiagari (四国の右下), there are fabulous nature and the route for pilgrimage. The Migiagari Road ride is a cycling event held here each year between September and November. Its route spans over 160 km and it goes through places with nature sights of rare beauty, where you can have a glimpse of Japan's landscapes of the past. The famous monk Kūkai has also walked through this Migiagari area of Shikoku. It is a place where you can admire the beauty of Shikoku at its best and breath its clean, fresh air.

6. Rafting on Yoshinogawa River

Ōbokekyō and Kobokekyō are points of rapid river currents famous all around Japan. In this area many people practice outdoor sports, such as rafting and canoeing.

Yoshinogawa River is said to be one of the best places for rafting and canoeing in Japan, considering the speed of its currents, the beauty of the landscape, and the freshness of its waters. On this river you can experience 3 meter high waves and falls that may be even 2 meters deep, so it will certainly be a thrilling ride. In 2017, the World Rafting Competition will be held here.

All these exciting activities can only be experienced in Tokushima, so don't miss the chance to have a great time when you arrive here.

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