Ikimasho!

Shimokitazawa Awa Odori 2016, Tokyo, Japan.

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Dancing in the streets of my neighbourhood in Tokyo


This weekend was the annual Awa Odori festival in my neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. Awa Odori is part of the Bon festivities, which are held to welcome one’s ancestors back to this world for a few days. Participants march in a straight line 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!) Because of this chant, Awa Odori is sometimes called the “fool’s dance.” Men dance in tabi (split-toed, rubber-soled socks), while women wear sandals, their heels not touching the ground. One rule you have to observe is to keep your hands and arms above your shoulder while dancing.

The Shimokitazawa Awa Odori is tiny in comparison to the one that will be happening in Koenji next weekend with thousands of dancers. But because this is my neighbourhood I always like this one. It takes place on the street beside my house, and the dancers march past the the shops I know so well.



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