Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’ Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’


2018.02.17

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

The Awa Odori is an incredibly vibrant traditional dance, accompanied by equally spirited celebrations, that is performed each August to mark Obon, a Buddhist festival for the repose of the dead. Originating in Tokushima, the dance has gradually spread across all of Japan and recently even been held as far away as Paris. Tokushima, however, remains Awa Odori’s spiritual home. The region’s culture is deeply entwined with the dance, and Tokushima City is home to the Awa Odori Kaikan where performances can be enjoyed, and participated in, all year round.

  • Located at the foot of Tokushima’s emblematic, eyebrow-shaped Mt. Bizan, the Awa Odori Kaikan consists of no less than five floors exploring every aspect of the dance, with exhibits ranging from centuries-old artifacts to the surprisingly hi-tech.

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Costumes, musical instruments, scale models of ancient Tokushima populated by tiny dancing figures, a highly lifelike 3D theater, and numerous other exhibits tell the story of how the Awa Odori came to captivate a nation. The tale begins with the Hachisuka clan who supposedly created the dance four centuries ago to mark their establishing of Tokushima Castle. Other creation stories exist as do Awa Odori’s origins, however, with the truth lost in the mists of time. One thing that is certain is that the festivities around the dance were once upon a time downright anarchic: in Tokushima the party would go on continuously for over three days, with samurai being banned from the event in the late 17th century due to a number of, shall we say, ‘incidents’.

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Although the Awa Odori can elsewhere be experienced only in August (12th to 15th), when both dancers and observers also do battle with the deep humidity that pervades most of Japan in summer, at the Awa Odori Kaikan the dance is a year-round affair. The Kaikan’s second floor houses a stage that hosts daily performances by Awa no Kaze (‘Wind of Awa’), an expert troupe of dancers specially formed for the venue. After performing both ancient and modern versions of the dance, along with variations themed on the moon, wind, flowers, and birds, the group invites audience members to get up on stage and join in with the finale.

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    If this sounds appealing yet slightly daunting, be assured that the dance steps are straightforward and quickly picked up through simple imitation; and besides, the Awa Odori is ultimately all about enthusiastic enjoyment over choreographic precision. Ancients on a three-day bender could manage it, after all. The spirit is neatly summed up by the phrase traditionally cried out by Awa Odori participants, translating as ‘The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and dance?’. A tome in the Kaikan’s library, meanwhile, quotes a well-known poem: ‘If you raise your hands and move your foot, that’s the Awa dance!”

    Should you still wish to get some preparation in first though, the third floor features interactive machines that will quickly school you in the steps, alongside Odorot the robot who performs a men-only version of the dance called the Otoko Odori. Though built way back in 1991 Odorot is still relentlessly shaking his thing.

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    The venue is topped off on its fifth story by the Awa no Hana (‘Flower of Awa’) cafe, and the ropeway to the top of Mt Bizan also departs from this floor.

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    Tokushima’s Awa Odori Kaikan: Join the wild ‘fool’s dance’

    To access the Awa Odori Kaikan from Tokushima Station, walk along the Sanuki Highway in a southwesterly direction for 750m (around ten minutes); the Kaikan is on the other side of the bridge across the Okinosu River. General admission costs 300 yen, with dance performances (daily at 11am, 2pm, 3pm ,4pm and 8pm) requiring an additional ticket charged at 800 yen (1,000 yen for the 8pm evening show).

    Tokushima Castle Ruins
    rating

    3.5

    156 Reviews
    place
    Tokushima Tokushima-shi Tokushimacho Jonai
    phone
    0886562525
    Bizan Ropeway
    place
    Tokushima Prefecture Tokushima-shi Shinmachi 2-20 Awaodori-kaikan 5F
    phone
    0886523617
    opening-hour
    [Apr.--Octo.] 9:00-21:00[Nov…
    Tokushima
    place
    Tokushima Pref

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