Updated: April 17, 2018
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Koenji Awa Odori Festival: a huge dance festival in the heart of one of Tokyo's hippest neighborhood!

If you are in Tokyo in late August, make sure to check out the Koenji Awa Odori Festival. It is one of the biggest in the city, and it attracts approximately 1 million visitors! Find out more about the summer festival below!

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Awa Odori: a traditional dance

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Awa Odori is a traditional dance that originated in the city to Tokushima about 400 years ago. Today it is performed everywhere in Japan as part of O-bon festival. O-bon is the Buddhist custom of welcoming one's ancestors.

Koenji Awa Odori Festival

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Koenji is a neighborhood located at just a 6 minute train ride from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line. It is home to the second biggest awa odori festival in the all of Japan (the biggest one being the original in Tokushima). In the picture above, you can see dancers in a closed street, with spectators crowding the sidewalks to see them.
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Koenji's procession starts in the town's famous shopping arcade, where it was originally held for the first time in 1957 as an attempt to revitalize the street.
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Men and women of all ages, as well as children participate in the dances. Women dancers usually wear geta (japanese wooden clogs) and braided hats, and have a dancing style with their arms raised in the air, whereas the typical male dance is lower to the ground.
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There are over 10,000 dancers at this festival! They belong to groups that are called ren.
The festival is also meant to be a display of community spirit. Each ren practices its awa dance many weeks before the festival. Aside from the male-female differences in styles, the dances are similar. Participants advance taking irregular steps and moving their arms in odd yet graceful movements. The ending part of the choreographed dances is the most interesting part, as each ren will add its own original dance moves in an attempt to woo crowds.
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Music is also an important part of the festival. Dancers advance to the sound of Japanese traditional instruments such as this fue (traditional flute) and Japanese drums.
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While you're in Koenji, you should definitely check out the many interesting second-hand clothing stores the neighborhood is famous for. According to many, Koenji is one of the coolest town in Tokyo, so once the Awa Odori is over, the party go on everywhere in town in the many Izakaya alleys and in the streets!

Where and When?

This year, the Koenji Awa Odori Festival will be on August 26 and 27 from 5:00-8:00. Get there early if you want a good spot for viewing the dances. Don't miss this great Japanese summer festival!
tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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