Awa Odori Dance Festival
Join the party at Japan’s most famous dance festival.
Summer festivals all across Japan fill the warm night air with music, laughter and infectious energy, but few are as lively as Tokushima City’s Awa Odori. It’s the biggest, baddest dance festival in the county featuring colorful costumes and female dancers wearing characteristic folded tatami hats.
Annually from Aug. 12 to 15, thousands of dancers and over a million spectators descend on the peaceful city in Shikoku—the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. The festival’s name comes from the ancient name for Tokushima Prefecture — Awa— and the Japanese word for dance, odori.
The high-energy and jubilant celebration dates back over 400 years!
What to expect
Groups of dancers known as ren perform in a procession along the city streets between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. each day of the festival. Accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments, the ren hail from all across Japan, with some even coming from abroad to take part. Each group takes to the streets with a different variation of the traditional choreography and distinctive costumes.
There are six stage areas offering either free or paid seating— which will give you the best views of the more professional dance groups. You can still enjoy both professional and amateur ren from the free seats and from the streets, just the same though.
The whole of the downtown area surrounding Tokushima station becomes a pedestrian-only zone during the festival, with food stalls, games and more casual dancing—which everyone is encouraged to participate in!
Awa Odori Museum
If you can’t attend the festival but still want to get a feel for it during your Tokushima trip, visit the Awa Odori Kaikan building at the base of the Mount Bizan Ropeway. Here you’ll find a museum about the festival, as well as a dance hall where you can watch live performances. There are five performances daily, including one in the evening.
Accommodations in Tokushima city tend to get booked up months in advance, due to the festival’s popularity. If you can’t find anywhere to stay, consider making a day trip from a nearby city like Naruto which is only 40 minutes away by train.