Shimokitazawa Awa Odori


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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  1. Arriving in Tokyo next Saturday 19th. Just found this event so I will head over. Before the dance procession, are there other local events beforehand?

  2. Hey! Not locally but this event in itself is good as there is a nice small-town local atmosphere. How long are you in Tokyo and I will see what other festivals are happening while you are here.

  3. Thank you for that. I am heading up to Aomori, Kamaishi and Fukushima coming back to Tokyo on 28th August for 5 days. I realise that the weekend of 26 and 27 when I am up north seems to have a lot of Tokyo festivals happening.
    I am gong to the soccer game in Saitama on Thursday 31

  4. Randomly another one in Shimokitazawa you can make:

    Annual Festival of Kitazawa Hachiman
    Sept. 2 (Sat) and 3 (Sun)
    Daizawa, Setagaya-ku

    On Saturday – Special Event “Praying for the peace of the world” by representatives of Buddhism, Islam and Christian (2 p.m.-4 p.m.) Rituals and performances by each group including mikomai, blue grass music etc. From 4 p.m. Kagura, Ohayashi, Japanese traditional dances, tsugaru shamisen etc.
    On Sunday – The highlight of the festival. Over 20 mikoshis go up a slope one after another to enter the shrine from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Bugaku (ancient court dance and music) will be played from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine, the largest Shinto shrine in Setagawa Ward, is located in the midst of the high class residential area of Setagaya Ward. The impressive mikoshi festival at this shrine is supported by eight parishioners groups including groups composed of descendents of a large number of artisans who moved to this area after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 from the hard-hit downtowns of Tokyo. These people contributed greatly in laying a foundation of today’s enthusiastic mikoshi festival of the shrine.

    Address: 3-25-3 Daizawa, Setagaya-ku
    Access: 10 minutes walk from Shimokitazawa Station on Inokashira Line and Odakyu Line.
    Map: http://goo.gl/maps/1nI3r
    Telephone: 03-3422-1370 (Kitazawa Hachiman)

  5. Can’t find whether I told you via another post, but I did get to the Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine festival on Saturday afternoon before flying out. An enjoyable couple of hours. I will be posting words and pictures later

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