This is the world renown Awa Odori, boasting over 400 years of history. There are several theories as to how it started, however it was around the year 1586 that the dance started picking up among townsfolk, after the region became wealthy from the production of Ai (Japanese Indigo plant used in dye) and salt, around the time that Iemasa Hachisuka, the founder of the Tokushima clan, settled down in Tokushima. It's said that the merchants played instrumental roles in it all, and made the Awa Odori into something truly splendid. It caught on as a form of pleasure and entertainment of the people, especially right after the war when it became a token of post-war recovery. It is now firmly set as a traditional performance representative of Japan.
During the festival, both dancers and festivalgoers unite in excitement as the Ohayashi music echoes through the entire city. There are viewing stations all over town where you can watch the dance performances (some shows charge, some are free) of the dance group Yumei Ren. Another group, Niwaka Ren, performs in many locations as well, and their shows are open for anyone to join in on. Over 1,400,000 people join the events annually.
Streets are regulated in center city Tokushima from 6:00pm to make room for the Awa Odori. Shows can be viewed in the streets and in parks. Floods of dancers fill the streets for this amazing highlight whose rhythm is kept in perfect order. There are four viewing locations in parks and the streets that charge for shows that seat 3,000-5,000, and there are two free locations that seat 1,000-2,000 people. In the afternoon there is a performance by Yumei Ren in a local auditorium (there is a charge).
At the Odori Hiroba square in the park, and along Odori Road, many kinds of dancers show off their skills in turns, viewable for free. Any one can participate in the Niwaka Ren and join in on the fun. You will want to give this famous traditional dance a try. Your body will naturally start moving to this unique light rhythm and the passion that fills the town.
There are no particular rules for viewing. Just be sure to throw trash, cigarette butts, etc., in proper bins.
Also, please take precautions against dehydration as the festival is held in summer.
Access to Tokushima City
JR Tokushima Station
1 chome, Terashima Honcho Nishi, Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture
Several locations throughout center city Tokushima