August 27, 2007

Koenji Awa-Odori Festival

Sunday it was off to Koenji to join the crowds for the annual Awa-Odori festival. The Awa-Odori (or Awa Dance) originally comes from Tokushima prefecture and dates back over 400 years, but there has been a festival in Koenji for the past 50 years or so. It's said that the weekend long festival attracts crowds of roughly one million people lining the avenues south of the station eating food from the myriad of street stalls, drinking beer or cold tea and cheering on the dance troupes. There were well over a hundred different groups of dancers of varying sizes and ages all backed by there own band of drummers and shamisen players, with some groups performing a more sedate version of the traditional dance, and others giving a very energetic and acrobatic performance ~ with all groups chanting 'Ya-to-sa! Ya-to-sa!' in a kind of call-and response fashion. The dancing started at six in the evening and the groups set off on their procession past the cheering crowds, and as the evening wore on the atmosphere became more electric. In the final ten minutes, the pace of the drumming and dancing quickened and the noise from the crowd increased until finally, on the stroke of nine o'clock, the groups all stopped in unison to a thunderous round of applause.

This was my second time at the festival, and I personally feel it's one of the most enjoyable festivals I've been to in Japan.

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