Awaodori Dance


Awaodori Dance 阿波踊り

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Early August
***** Category: Observance


This is a special dance that originated in Tokushima (Shikoku) more than 400 years ago.
It is performed during the days of the Bon Festival (o-bon) in many parts of Japan nowadays.

There are three different theories about the origins of the Awa Dance.
One is that it is a version of the Bon Odori, a dance performed in summer throughout Japan.

Another is that it began from a celebration of the completion of Tokushima Castle when Hachisuka Iemasa provided sake for the townspeople who got drunk and began to dance with abandon. The Awa Dance features organized teams of dancers, which is suggested to have been influenced by "Furyu"-a performing art from the Heian period that later became Noh.

The third theory relies on Miyoshi district records from the year 1663 of a Furyu dance at the Shozui Castle, considering this performance to be the origin of the Awa Dance. In the 1920s the dance festival became organized to attract tourism and was named "Awa Odori." Every August 12th to 15th the streets of Tokushima teem with high-spirited folks enjoying a festival atmosphere.

The Awa Dance is held in the city of Tokushima using the main downtown streets as a stage. It starts in the evening (6:00 p.m.) and the dancing lasts until 10:30 p.m. The main performances are held on outdoor dance stages or strips built in the downtown parks and streets. Eight are on stages, four in plazas, two along roads, and six at streetcorner spaces.

The Awa Dance is held not only in the city of Tokushima but also in Naruto, Ikeda, Kamojima, Sadamitsu, and other locales in the prefecture. All of Tokushima prefecture catches the summer fever when it comes to Awa Odori.


Other kigo with respect to the Bon dancing:

Bon dancing, bon odori 盆踊
dancing , odori 踊
..... nagashi ながし..... zomekiぞめき
..... Bon yatsushi 盆やつし

Dance for the souls, shooryoo odori 精霊踊
Memorial Dance, kuyoo odori 供養踊
Lantern Dance, tooroo odori 燈篭踊
Dance for a good year, hoonen odori 豊年踊

hat for dancing, odori-gasa 踊笠
There are regional differences in this hat.

light kimono for dancing, odori-yukata 踊浴衣
drum for the dance, odori daiko 踊大鼓
song for the dance, odori-uta 踊唄
..... ondotori 音頭取(おんどとり)

dancer, odoriko 踊子(おどりこ)
place for the dance, odoriba 踊場
dancing in a circle, odori no wa 踊の輪

kokiriko odori 小切子踊(こきりこおどり)Kokiriko dance
In Gokayama, Fukuyama prefekture and a few parts of Niigata in Kashiwazaki.

kokiriko is a special instrument made from bamboo, it is about 20 to 30 cm long. One stick is held in each hand and hit to produce a suond.

. . . CLICK here for Dance Photos !

Other souces say the kokiriko is a kind of
. sasara clapper ささら .

okesa odori おけさ踊(おけさおどり)Bon dance in Echigo
Also in Sado Island.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Sado Okesa 佐渡おけさ - LOOK and LISTEN:
source : www.youtube.com

Kiso odori 木曾踊(きそおどり)Bon dance in the Kiso region
Kisa Odori - LOOK and LISTEN:
source : www.youtube.com

. sansa odori さんさ踊(さんさおどり)Bon dance in Morioka .  
August 1 - 4 
Sansa Odori - LOOK and LISTEN:
source : www.youtube.com


Song of the Dancers in Awa

odoru ahoo ni miru ahoo onaji ahoo nara odoranya son son
odoru aho ni miru aho onaji aho nara odoranya son son
tanzende Narren ........... dancing fools
zuschauende Narren .... watching fools
wenn schon ein Narr .... if I have to be a fool
dann lieber tanzen . ....... I'd rather dance


Read a charming article about the Shiraishi Odori, a Bon dance held in the memory of Shiraishi island ancestors.

By Amy Chavez, August 2005


Koenji Awa-Odori Dance Festival

The Dancers forming dance units called "Ren", dance around the street or trough the spectators' seats. Ren, a dance unit, usually consists of a carrier of lanterns with the group's name on at the head of line, then female dances (kid dancers), male dancers and at the back a musical accompaniment called "Narimono" who play traditional instruments including shamisens, flutes, bells and drums.

The female dance features dancing on tiptoe with a wattle hat low over their eyes, waving the lithe hands above the head, and the male dance, its dynamic movements will catch your eyes. The lilt dance and music is very exhilarating to experience!

. Kooenji 高円寺 Koen-Ji Awaodori Tokyo .

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Awaodori Chicken 阿波尾鶏 from Tokushima
A special breed from 1989, with respect to the Awa Odori 阿波踊り dance of Tokushima and is known for its beautiful tail. Breeding time is only 80 days, so it is rather cheap.
ODORI here does not mean dance, but LONG TAIL !

***** WASHOKU : Awaodori 阿波尾鶏 from Tokushima


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Awa dance performed in cold river

Tens of people performed the traditional Awa dance in a cold river in Tokushima City, western Japan, on Sunday.

The summer dance was performed in the Shinmachi River running through the central part of the city.
About 30 people wearing traditional yukata and happi entered the water all at once, and moved their hands in a unique Awa dance style, while calling out "Yattosa".
An 86-year-old man received a round of applause as he wrote the character for dragon, which is this year's sign, while treading water.
The water temperature was 11 degrees Celsius as of 9 AM, and the dancers were shivering as they came out of the river. They said the cold water straightened them out and made them feel refreshed.
source : www3.nhk.or.jp



. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

odori kara sugu ni kusa karu sawagi kana

still in dancing duds
people make quite a racket
cutting wild grass

Tr. Chris Drake

This early autumn hokku was written in the 7th month (August) in 1822. It is the time when people are preparing for the big Bon (or, more honorifically, O-Bon) Festival of Returning Souls, a festival that mixes popular Buddhism with shamanic ancestor worship. The main part of the Bon Festival, one of the biggest festivals of the year, lasts for three days (7/14-16) at the time of the full moon and climaxes with a great ring dance, often with several rings of dancers, only half of whom are visible, since half of the dancers are the invisible souls of ancestors. The week before this great dance with invisible souls -- a kind of group possession -- is one of hectic preparation: houses and home altars to ancestors are thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the return of the souls of recent ancestors, while outside much high, vigorously growing wild grass has to be cut to clear the paths to graveyards and the graveyards themselves, many of which are located on hills or on the slopes of mountains, places which souls are believed to use as doors between the other world and the visible world.

Since the souls of the dead are also believed to be gods and/or Buddhas, cleaning and clearing wild grass from grave sites and the paths to them had to be done very carefully, and the souls were greeted and later sent off by living escorts holding lanterns. In addition, since almost everyone would be resting from their normal activities and participating in a three-night dance, grass for animal feed and other daily needs had to be cut early and stored for use during the three days of the festival. Grass-cutting was hard work, but it was most demanding and exhausting during high summer and just before Bon, and it was a big job involving many villagers.

In Issa's hokku, two readings seem possible. One is that the preparations for the big dance haven't been finished, so many of the dancers have to go directly from the dance as it ends near dawn on the first night and finish cutting the wild grass that remains dressed as they are. Issa's diary shows there was a lot of rain around the time of the Bon Festival in 1822, so it may have been difficult to cut all the grass that needed to be cut in time for the festival, so perhaps it had to be cut during the festival. On the other hand, this hokku could be about dancers on the last night of the dance leaving at dawn to cut wild grass needed for their farm animals after three days of rest. Either way, dancers in colorful light cotton robes with wide sashes, many in costumes (dressed as samurai and other roles) or wearing masks or cross-dressing (as was common at Bon dances in Issa's time), leave the dance grounds and go directly to the fields and paths nearby that need to be cut.

Issa says they're making quite a "racket, uproar," an expression that can also mean revelry or merrymaking, so probably the grass-cutters continue to sing some of the lyrics of the songs that go with the Bon dances, and some probably make dance steps and arm movements as they swing their sickles in the dawn light. Perhaps they feel they are cutting the grass together with their invisible ancestors, and their continued songs and rhythmic movements may be partly intended to soothe and humor their ancestors' souls as they see them off. In one sense, group work such communal grass-cutting establishes the base rhythm and the emotional sense of solidarity and communion with the dead that provides the spiritual and physical energy for the big Bon dance, so it's appropriate that the grass-cutters are still dressed for the dance. If one wanted to approach this hokku via film, it would take a director like Fellini to do justice to it.

Chris Drake


roji-ura ni hajimatte iru awa odori

in the back streets
it has already started -
Awaodori Dancing


te mo ashi mo itso no ma ni yara awa odori

my hands, my feet
moving all by themselves -
the Awa Dance


awa odori hito sorezore da ari ni keri

Awaodori dance -
people are indivituals
each and every one


shamisen to kane to daikoo mo awa odori

shamisen, flutes,
gongs and the big drum -
Awaodori dance

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

遠藤和良 Endo Kazuyoshi


Bon Odori
yukata-clad folks dance 'round
to taiko drums sound

© Tokyo on July 23, during a vist by ito (Juanito Escareal)

Read more about this trip here:
Bon Odori, by Juanito Escareal

This photo shows the typical bon yagura 盆櫓, the tower in the middle with the music where people dance around it.

Related words

***** Bon Festival (o-bon) (05)


source : sunnysmile2005
kokeshi こけし wooden dolls

Awaodori Dance Dolls
. Folk Toys from Tokushima .

Yosakoi Dance and Dolls よさこい人形
Kochi, Shikoku

. Folk Toys from Kochi and Tosa .


- #awaodori -


Anonymous said...

Awa Odori Feelings


I am a French documentary film maker willing to know more about the people doing Awa Odori in Tokushima. I am searching testimonies from people doing it once in the year, how they prepare themselves for it, how they feel about it.

I am not searching info about professionals dancers, nothing about troupes going around the world, nothing about tourist attractions / I am a seeking PERSONAL FEELINGS of "ordinary" people

thank you

Francois-Xavier Noulens


Gabi Greve said...


盆踊り だるま踊りの 江戸時代

Bon Dance
Daruma Dancing in the
Edo Period

. Gabi Greve August 2006 .

Look at Daruma Dancing !


Anonymous said...

chin chin

that is all

Anonymous said...

 © Yosakoi

Yosakoi (よさこい) is a unique style of dance that originated in Japan. Yosakoi started in the city of Kochi in 1954, as a modern rendition of Awa Odori, a traditional summer dance. As of 2005, yosakoi-style dancing has spread throughout much of Japan. The style of dance is highly energetic, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music.

The choreographed dances are often performed by large teams. Along with a number of professional yosakoi schools and town dance teams, yosakoi is also a popular event during the sports festivals held by Japanese elementary, junior, and senior high schools. Yosakoi participants include men and women of almost all ages – sometimes within a single team.

In the dialect of Tosa province (modern-day Kochi prefecture), "yosakoi" means "Please come at night."

Costumes and naruko

The costumes used by yosakoi teams vary widely. Happi coats and yukata are the most predominant costumes and can be seen in a wide variety of colors. However, some groups choose costumes that are based on historical attire, popular fashions, or ethnic fashions. Typically, all members of a team wear similar costumes.

One of the defining aspects of yosakoi dance is the use of naruko: small wooden clappers that are held in the hands of each dancer. Naruko were originally used in Kochi Prefecture to scare birds away from rice fields. The traditional naruko has black and yellow beaters on a wooden body, but most modern yosakoi groups create their own naruko, choosing colors and materials that match their costumes. The use of naruko is required in yosakoi dance, but many groups also use other hand-held instruments or props, such as drums, other percussion instruments, flags, batons, and floats.

Yosakoi Naruko Dancing

The official yosakoi dance is based on a song called "Yosakoi Naruko Dancing", written by Takemasa Eisaku. This song was created by combining elements of three songs: "Yosakoi-bushi" ("yosakoi melody"), "Yocchore" (a children's song), and "Jinma-mo" (a folk song of Kochi Prefecture). The original competition in Kochi requires that each team's music include some part of this original music.

Competitions and festivals in other areas may not have this requirement (thus allowing teams to compose their own music), or may require that elements of different local folk songs are worked into the dance routines. Takemasa has given the copyright on "Yosakoi Naruko Dancing" to the public.

Yosakoi Matsuri

Yosakoi Matsuri ("yosakoi festival") is a festival in the city of Kochi, Japan. This is the original yosakoi festival: it has taken place every August since 1954. In this festival, teams of dancers and floats crowd to dance the yosakoi naruko dance together. The number of participants has been increasing yearly: as of 2005 over 10,000 dancers participate in this competition every year.

The rules of the Kochi yosakoi competition are as follows:

Participants must use the naruko clappers in the dance.
Any musical arrangement is acceptable, but the music must contain at least some part of Takemasa's original "Yosakoi Naruko Dancing" song.
Teams are limited to 150 participants.


Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

Ishitaro, if only
you were in this world --
I dance with your soul

Ishitarou kono yo ni araba bon-odori

This hokku is from 1821, the year Issa's infant second son, Ishitaro, died on 1/11 after being born three months earlier, on 10/5 of the previous year. Issa and his wife had already lost their first two children, and they gave their second son a name that contained their prayer that he grow up to be healthy and strong: Ishitaro means something like Big Rock.

by Chris Drake -

anonymous news said...

English morris dancing hits Japan, with all the bells and whistles

The English form of folk dancing known as morris dates back to the Middle Ages and involves costumed groups of dancers stepping in time to music. Participants typically wear bells attached to their shins and may also wield handkerchiefs or sticks. Barely seen in Japan before, this traditional art can now be experienced in the most unexpected of locations: Shikoku.

Thanks to the efforts of English teacher Angela Fukutome, a small but enthusiastic Japanese morris dancing group is performing at festivals and cultural events around Kagawa Prefecture. Drawing on the old name for the Kagawa region, the group — known in morris as a “side” — calls itself Sanuki Morris.


By chance, one of the mothers at Fukutome’s daughter’s kindergarten was an accomplished folk musician who played a number of instruments. Before taking up morris dancing, Aya Akiyama was a member of a professional chindonya troop, or advertising band, carrying on a tradition in which players are hired to march through the streets and advertise local businesses.

“Angela introduced me to English folk music and showed me some videos of morris sides,” Akiyama says. “I fell in love with it right away and suggested to Angela that we should have a try, and that was the birth of Sanuki Morris.”

Gabi Greve said...

awa odori koshi no inro ji o kesuru

Awa Dance !
the pill box on his belt
rubs on the ground

Saitoo Inao 伊藤伊那男 Saito Inao (1949 - )
MORE about the Inro

Gabi Greve said...

- - - - - Tokushima 徳島県

Once upon a time
when diseases were rampant and difficult to prevent,
people used to pray to Fudo Myo-O
"I will dance for you this year and hope you will keep me healthy in the summer!"
This is said to be the beginning of the Tokushima Awa Odori dance.
Legends about Fudo Myo-O

Gabi Greve said...

Awa Kaido 阿波街道 Awa Highway
The 阿讃山脈 Sanuki Mountain range lies on the border of 香川県 Kagawa and 徳島県 Tokushima. There are various tooge 峠 passes for crossing of the highway:
大坂峠 Osaka Toge, 鵜の田尾峠 Unotao Toge, 境目 Sakaime. 猪ノ鼻峠 Inohana Toge.

In the former 讃岐国 Sanuki no Kuni (now Kagawa) the highway was called Awa Kaido.
In Tokushima, the highway was called 讃岐街道 Sanuku Kaido.
In Tokushima on this highway was a town called 阿波町 Awacho, with more than 200 m along the road.

In Kagawa, Tadotsu town was the famous Shrine Konpira san and the roads for this pilgrimage were called

金毘羅街道 Konpira Kaido / 金毘羅往来 Konpira Orai.