Dancing in the Streets: Koenji Awa Odori, Tokyo

Koenji Awa Odori 2014

If you’re a fool, you may as well dance…

Once a year, 12,000 dancers pile out on to the streets of Koenji for the annual Awa Odori, Tokyo’s most energetic festival. Men dance in tabi (split-toed socks), while women wear sandals, their heels not touching the ground. They march through the streets in unison to music performed on the shamisen, flute, drums, and bells singing “Odoru aho ni miru aho; onaji aho nara odoranya son son!” (It’s a fool who dances and a fool who watches; if both are fools, you might as well dance!)

Legend has it that the Awa Odori (‘awa dance’) tradition can be traced back to Tokushima in Shikoku, when a local daimyo (ruler) plied his citizens with booze to celebrate the completion of the local castle in 1586, leading to a citywide outbreak of dancing in the streets.

Growing up in Northern Ireland I always associated marching and parades with undertones of hatred. But this is how it should be done: total inclusion, everyone just loving it.


One comment

  1. Pingback: A walk around: Akabane, Tokyo | IKIMASHO!

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