Translated by Tom Brodie Williams
Awa Odori - All About Tokushima's Summer Dance Festival
Written by MATCHA
Awa Odori is Tokushima Prefecture's annual summer tradition of dance. With more than 400 years of history, this matsuri is a must-see for those traveling in Japan in August. We'll cover the festival's schedule and how to get to the events. Please note the festivities are canceled in 2020.
What Is Awa Odori?
Please note that the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima Prefecture is canceled in 2020 due to effects of the COVID-19 outbreaks.
Awa Odori is the quintessential summer event of Tokushima prefecture, located in Shikoku. Along with Gifu Prefecture’s Gujo Odori Dance and Akita Prefecture’s Nishimonai Bon Odori (bound dance), it has a history of over 400 years and is counted as one of Japan’s three most important Bon Odori Festivals.
You are guaranteed to enjoy yourself at the sight of people dancing to the Awa Yoshikono chant, "The dancers are fools and the watchers are fools. If both are fools, then why not dance?"
There are two Awa Odori styles. For the men’s dance, they wear happi coats (*1) with their yukata while female dancers wear amigasa (*2) along with their yukata for the women’s dance. Indeed, the charm and elegance of the women dancing in their pink and red yukata is one of the highlights of the festival.
While you can view Awa Odori festivals in many places in Tokushima prefecture as well as in Koenji and Nakameguro in Tokyo, the most famous of them all is the Tokushima City's Awa Odori. Held every year during the Obon Holiday season from August 12th to the 15th, over a million people visit year after year to watch more than a hundred thousand dancers perform.
In this article, we will give you information on how to access Tokushima City’s Awa Odori Festival.
*1 Happi coat: a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat usually worn only to festivals.
*2 Amigasa: a traditional braided straw hat used to protect wearers from the sun in summer.
The 2019 Awa Odori Festival Schedule
Please note that the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima Prefecture is canceled in 2020 due to effects of the COVID-19 outbreaks. The events are usually held in mid-August.
Festival and Station Access
The Tokushima City Awa Odori is held on the south side of JR Tokushima Station.
Adress: Tokushima, Tokushima, Terashima Honcho, Nishi 1-61 Google Map
Travelling From Tokyo By Shinkansen
If traveling from Tokyo to Tokushima by train, take the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Hakata from Tokyo Station and get off at Okayama Station. From there change to the JR Rapid Service Marine Liner bound for Takamatsu and get off at Takamatsu Station (the last stop). From Takamatsu, take the JR Limited Express Uzushio bound for Tokushima and get off at Tokushima Station (again the last stop). It takes roughly 6 hours and costs 18,010 yen for unreserved-seat tickets.
Travelling From Tokyo By Airplane
If you're traveling by air, take a domestic flight from Haneda Airport bound for Tokushima Awaodori Airport. There are 10 flights per day departing from Haneda. It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to fly to Tokushima Airport and prices range from 15,000 to 20,000 yen depending on the airline and season.
From Tokushima Awaodori Airport, you can take a limousine bus bound for Tokushima Station. It takes about 30 minutes and costs 440 yen.
What to Expect at the Awa Odori Festival
Here are some tips on how to enjoy the the Awa Odori Festival.
Check Out the Various Ren and Their Different Styles!
The Tokushima City Awa Odori takes place from 18:00 to 22:30 in front of Tokushima Station. There is no specific or correct way to dance the Awa Odori. Instead, there are over 1,000 different dance groups called Ren who perform their own unique dance styles. Appreciating the various dances is a big part of the fun!
Join the "Niwaka Ren" and Try Dancing Yourself
Dancing in front of Tokushima Station is reserved for those who have signed up, joined a dance group, and have properly rehearsed beforehand; day-of participation is not permitted with most groups.
However, there is one group called the "Niwaka Ren," which anyone can join on the day of the event. International visitors are welcome to participate, too. You can dance with the Niwaka Ren at the Tokushima Ekimae Dance Plaza and Motomachi-odori Dance Plaza from 18:30 to 20:30. So if you feel like dancing, go ahead and join in the festivities!
What to Bring to Make the Most of the Awa Odori
Clothing and Shoes
The average temperature in August in Tokushima is 27.8 degrees Celsius—often reaching highs of 30 degrees Celsius and above at noon. Light attire such as T-shirts, shorts, and footwear consisting of sneakers or sandals are recommended.
Other Things (A Towel/Water)
It gets hot and you will break out in a sweat, make sure to stay properly hydrated, and bring a towel in order to enjoy the festival.
*Please be aware that the above travel times and costs are based on information from the official website (July 2019) and are subject to change.