There are hundreds of Awa Odori festivals that take place over the summer in Japan, but the Tokushima Awa Odori (徳島阿波おどり) is the original and the most famous. Incidentally, “Awa” is the former name for the region that encompasses Tokushima and “odori” means dance.
The Tokushima Awa Odori has roots dating back over 400 years and the lyrics to the dance are well known: “It’s a fool who dances and a fool who watches! If both are fools, you might as well have fun dancing!” And dance they do. Between the 12th and 15th of August each year, Tokushima sees its streets and shops, normally home to a population of 260,000, fill with almost 1.4 million tourists. While there are performances such as the Selected Awa Dance during the day, it is the night time for which people wait. From 6pm until late at night the district south of Tokushima Station is pedestrianized and dance groups (called “ren” 連) perform their irregular and energetic dances for the crowds to the sounds of fast-beating music.