Home of the mid-summer Awa-odori Dance. Enjoy a fun-filled tour of the city by the waters.
Located in the northeastern part of Tokushima Prefecture and reaching the mouth of the Yoshino River, Tokushima City is the center of government and economy for Tokushima Prefecture. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, with Mt. Bizan and Tokushima Central Park right in the heart of the city, this aqua-metropolis has been designated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport as one of the top 100 homes by the water. You can enjoy a 30 minute tour of this aqua-metropolis through the Hyotanjima Boat Tour, which is a popular tourist attraction.
Tokushima is known throughout Japan for its Awa Odori Dance, which boasts a history of over 400 years. Nowadays, Awa Odori is not only limited to Tokushima, but it is also performed outside the prefecture and even at overseas events. The passionate dancers of this internationally renowned festival envelop the entire city with a wave of excitement and this festival is placed alongside the Rio Carnival as one of the largest dance event in the world.
Three theories exist regarding the origins of the Awa Odori. The first theory attributes the root of the dance to a local variation of the Bon Festival dance, performed throughout Japan during the summer. In the second theory, Awa Odori is said to have come as a result of the completion of the Tokushima Castle which was built by Hachisuka Iemasa in 1587. Lord Hachisuka provided rice wine to the people of the castle town, wherein they danced freely with abandon, regardless of their rank or seniority, to celebrate the new castle and this eventually became the Awa Odori dance. The third theory argues that the Awa Odori dance has roots in the furyu dance. Furyu is said to be the source of Japanese Noh plays, and the style of Awa Odori where they dance in a group called a "ren," is said to have been influenced by the furyu dance. According to the Miyoshi district records from 1663, there was a furyu dance at Shozui Castle in 1578 held by Masayasu Sogo (a member of the Miyoshi family) and this is the very origin of Awa Dance in this theory.
The city began promoting the festival as a tourist event during the early Showa Era (1926-1989), and it was named "Awa Odori" at this time. The Awa Odori festival takes place all over the prefecture during the same time as the traditional Bon Festival as the main event of the summer. The dance performed in Tokushima City is the most major one among them and is held over four days from August 12 to 15. During this period, the city center and the parks where the stages are located becomes a place full of excitement with dancers and more than 1.3 million visitors.
To dance in the Awa Odori, you need to already be registered as part of a "ren," or a dance troupe. However, if you haven’t and still want to participate, you can join the "Niwaka Ren." There is no dress requirement and before you dance on stage, you will be given lessons by a professional dance group.
And if you are unable to attend the event in the summer, you can experience the Awa Odori all year round at the Awa Odori Kaikan located in the center of the city. During the day time, the ren "Awa no Kaze" (Wind of Awa) will be performing, and for the evening shows, every night a different famous professional ren will be performing. You will also get a chance to join them on stage where you will be taught the dance and will be able to perform alongside the ren members.
From Tokyo :
[Air] 1h 15 min from Haneda to Tokushima Airport.
[Rail] 3h 20 min to Okayama Station by JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and 1h 56 min from Okayama to Tokushima Station by JR Seto-ohashi Kotoku Line.
From Osaka :
[Rail] 40 min from Shin-Osaka to Okayama by Shinkansen.
[Bus] 2h 30 min from Osaka Station to Tokushima Station by express bus.