One million dance lovers gather at Japan’s Awa Odori festival
Over a million performers and spectators are flocking to a western Japanese city this weekend for one of the country’s largest dance festivals, after organisers stepped up efforts to accommodate foreign visitors.
The annual ‘Awa Odori’, which originates from a Japanese Buddhist custom of honouring 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 synchronised choreography.
The number of participants, including performers, is expected to hit the same number as last year, when 1.2mn 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 organiser, added, “This is a dance festival welcoming everybody as they can watch, sing, dance. This year we are especially putting the em-
phasis on foreign visitors as the number of tourists from other countries to Japan is increasing.”
He added that this year there are English signs and temporary western-style toilets.
Performers dance in the street during the Awa Odori festival, in Tokushima on Saturday