Awa odori, the dance of madmen

Awa Odori (阿波 踊 り) is the best known and largest festival in Japan during the season of Obon, a festival that takes place in mid-August and that worships the ancestors. Awa is the old name of Tokushima, the city where the festival takes place, and Odori means “dance” in Japanese.

Awa Odori 2

Between August 12 and 15, spectators and dancers gather in Tokushima to watch the “Dance of the crazy” which originated 400 years ago. His nickname comes from the lyrics of a popular song, which translates as below: “crazy people dance and crazy people watch, you can dance too.”

Awa Odori 3

Although some events occur during the day, the main show takes place between 6:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., when groups of dancers called ren they dance along the streets of downtown Tokushima. From amateurs to veterans who have practiced throughout the year, the ren come to Tokushima from other parts of Japan, and even further afield, as U.S.

Musicians of the Awa Odori

Groups dance along designated spectator areas (enbujo) in a procession, accompanied by live traditional music as they walk. Although the dance steps are simple, the ren they are distinguished from one another with elaborate variations and colorful uniforms. The women wear cotton robes called yukatawhile men wear happi (a yukata shorter with shorts or pants).


At night, downtown Tokushima closes down and turns into a large dance stage. There are seven different areas that you can attend free or paying for a seat. The paid stages attract professional dancers, while the free ones come casual dancers. In addition, you can find food and game stalls off stage.

Here is a video of the 2012 Awa Odori festival: