One mil­lion dancers gather at Ja­pan's 'Awa' fes­ti­val

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Over a mil­lion performers and spec­ta­tors will flock to a western Ja­panese city this week­end for one of the country's largest dance fes­ti­vals, af­ter or­ga­niz­ers stepped up ef­forts to ac­com­mo­date for­eign vis­i­tors. The an­nual "Awa Odori", which orig­i­nates from a Ja­panese Bud­dhist cus­tom of hon­or­ing the spir­its of an­ces­tors, sees the oth­er­wise sleepy city of Tokushima turn into a stage for four days.

Groups of dancers and mu­si­cians, known as "ren", pa­rade through the streets to the sound of tra­di­tional mu­sic in­stru­ments such as lutes, drums, flutes and bells. Sport­ing Ja­panese ki­mono cos­tumes with hair bands or straw hats, they chant in cho­rus and dance in syn­chro­nized chore­og­ra­phy. The num­ber of par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing performers, is ex­pected to hit the same num­ber as last year, when 1.2 mil­lion took part in the cen­turies-old car­ni­val.

"You need prac­tice when you do other Ja­panese tra­di­tional per­form­ing arts, but any­one can en­joy Awa Odori... only by rais­ing hands and tak­ing steps to the rhythm," said 32-year-old dancer Masayuki Tatekawa. Kenji Ki­ta­mura, an or­ga­nizer, added: "This is a dance fes­ti­val wel­com­ing ev­ery­body as they can watch, sing, dance.

"This year we are es­pe­cially putting the em­pha­sis on for­eign vis­i­tors as the num­ber of tourists from other coun­tries to Ja­pan is in­creas­ing." He added that this year there would be English signs and tem­po­rary western-style toilets. The country has launched a "Visit Ja­pan" cam­paign ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the govern­ment said last month that trav­el­ers to Ja­pan from other coun­tries had jumped 17.4 per­cent to a record 13.8 mil­lion for the first half of 2017. — AFP

Performers dance in the street dur­ing the Awa Odori fes­ti­val in Tokushima. — AFP pho­tos

Performers pre­pare to ded­i­cate their dance to a tem­ple be­fore the Awa Odori fes­ti­val.

Performers of a fold­ing fan team dance dur­ing the Awa Odori fes­ti­val.

Par­tic­i­pants of a load team per­form dur­ing the Awa Odori fes­ti­val.

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