Performers prepare for the Awa Odori festival, which attracts more than 1.2 million people annually Photo: AFP

One million dance lovers gather for Tokushima's 'Awa' festival


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 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 kimono-like 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 1.2 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 travellers to Japan from other countries had jumped 17.4 percent to a record 13.8 million for the first half of 2017.

© 2017 AFP

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.

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if it wasn't for Obon traffic jams i would be there!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He added that this year there would be English signs and temporary western-style toilets.

I was in Tokushima last year, and there are plenty of signs in English, what you need is multi-language signs.

Oh, and in all the years I have been here, and all the festival's I have attended, all over the place. Damn near every "temporary" toilet I used was "western" style. Don't know why this is even included here, gratuitous information at best.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Those hats always look like taco shells to me.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Those hats always look like taco shells to me.

Some tasty looking "tacos" if you ask me!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I 've never been to Tokushima but I saw a special Awa festival here in Fukuoka and I love Awa odori and the ladies are very charming when they dance...One of the best Bon Odori I know!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I was told recently by a local that Awa odori was actually a very 'sensual' dance (and eye contact was sometimes very intense).

Massive crowds in 35deg heat dampen my enthusiasm though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

hats...if its 35degrees and you will in a country where white skin tone is cherished, i think it is pretty good design.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hats of AWA ODORI festival dancers should be made to stylish and elegant to add beauty to the festival.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It looks interesting, but with a million people? No thanks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think I will stick to a much smaller type festival. No way I want to go with a million plus people

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Always looks like fun

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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