Friday, August 18, 2006

Awa Odori

I and my wife met one of her friends in Tokushima for a chance to watch the Awa Odori, a special dance held during the bon season of Japan. Awaodori consists of a group of dancers clad in bright colored kimono, yukata, or happi, who dance to very spirited music in a way that would remind you of someone who is drunk or possessed by some demon.We took a train and bus from Akashi to Tokushima where we met my wife's friend. Then we took a taxi from Tokushima station to the concert hall to watch the Awa Odori performance. When we arrived there was a line of people that wrapped all the way around the side of the building and halfway down the street. And it was hotter than a witch's tit there. The taxi guy was kind enough to give us some uchiwa (fans) so we could cool down.Once we entered the concert hall and the Awa Odori performance began I was totally at awe. I had seen many obon odori in my time here in Japan. But the Awa Odori is very different. The dance is different based on the group doing it and the footwork, body rhythm as well as the music are totally different compared to other dances. The feet move in a snake-like rhythm while the body slithers around. The hands are used in a twirling motion sometimes with uchiwa to help accent the movements.

Even children joined into the festivities. There were several performances by children not more than 5 or 6 years old. They danced in sync with the group and did a very entertaining job. It was very impressive to see several generations of people from the same village putting on the Awa Odori. My wife and her friend made several "How cute" comments during the dances.

What wikipedia says about the Awa Odori:
Awa Dance Festival (阿波踊り Awa Odori?) is held every year in the time of Bon Odori (Bon festival) in the area of Tokushima city (徳島市; -shi), the capital city of Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku island of Japan. It follows an accompaniment such as Shamisen, Drum, Brass, and Flute, and dancers dance and walk. Dancers wear regional costumes and often sing while dancing. Men and Women follow separate dance steps and wear different costumes, although most professional Awa Odori troupes will tightly choreograph the movements of their male and female members together.
If you get a chance to see the Awa Odori in Tokushima you will have seen something that Japan and Japanese have to be proud of. It's a cultural asset that should be preserved for generations to come. And it looks funky too!

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