Tokyo Bicycle Diaries: Kagurazaka Matsuri Awa Odori


Summers in Tokyo are often unbearably hot and humid, the absence of daylight savings means that the sun rises at 4AM, and the general absence of blinds in Tokyo apartments means that it's likely you will too. However, when it comes to experiencing Japan, nothing comes close to summer. The city comes alive with street dances at Odori festivals and fireworks at Hanabi festivals. A friend of mine, who belongs to an Awa Odori group, told me she would be performing at the Kagurazaka Matsuri. So we decided to go check it out.

Awa Odori supposedly started in Tokushima on the island of Shikoku (off the East coast of the main island) as the drunken antics of guests at the celebration of the opening of Tokushima castle and has become one of the main features of summer festivals around Japan.
Kagurazaka was the first place in Tokyo to have Awa Odori feature in its summer festival about 40 years ago and is now a major attraction. Different teams of dancers parade down the main street, each team with it's own "flag bearer" (in this case, more like a lantern holder) leading the way, followed by 3 or 4 sets of dancers: first the kids, then the ladies - the more demure dancers in long uniforms and fortune cookie-like hats and the more energetic dancers in short uniforms like the men who follow them cheering the team on with cries like "Yattosa, yattosa!" or "Yoi, yoi ,yoi!". And finally, after all the dancers come the musicians playing traditional Japanese instruments like the shamisen.

The supposedly drunken and disorderly origins of the Awa Odori are clearly still alive and well, as many restaurants set up little stalls outside to sell typical snacks and drinks (both alcoholic and not) and the streets really fill up with a unique atmosphere, bringing together all sorts of people - from tourists there by chance to couples on dates, to families enjoying their time together - and all generations, from the very young to the very old.

Practical Information: 
Date: Mid-late July - the festival goes on for about a week, the dancing only for the last 3 days
Time: Dancing starts at 7pm, try to get there at least 30 minutes early to get a good spot.
TIP: Try to get a spot across from Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji Temple or at intersections. All dance teams stop there and perform special dances. Being across from the temple gives the added bonus of having a gorgeous backdrop.
Access: Iidabashi (飯田橋) Station on the Tokyo Metro TozaiSubway TokyoTozai.png, YurakuchoSubway TokyoYurakucho.png or NambokuSubway TokyoNamboku.png Lines Exit B3.

No comments :

Post a Comment