Last weekend was the high point of the year for all Awaodori fans in and around Tokyo. Two massive festivals took place, the grand Koenji Awaodori Festival and also the Minamikoshigaya Awaodori Festival up in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. The Saitama festival takes place on broad modern streets, much different from the intimate and down to earth Koenji festival, so there is a big difference in how the two festivals compare. Although not nearly as big and varied as the Koenji festival the Minamikoshigaya festival manages to attract several of genuine Tokushima teams which are generally regarded as the best in the world. It is not really fair to compare the teams, but there are some truly exceptional teams in terms of skill to be seen in this festival. One of them, a personal favorite and quite famous around the country is the Ebisuren straight from Tokushima Prefecture itself. They performed late in the evening of this very long festival but gave a near perfect performance, as usual.
Next year come August, if you wan’t to see Awaodori but are not too keen on the crowds of Koenji, I recommend trying out Minamikoshigaya, it is easy to get there from Tokyo as the Hanzomon subway line connects all the way through.
The biggest mainland Awaodori festival of the year is taking place right now at Koenji. The massive Koenji festival attracts almost a million visitors and features over 10 000 dancers and musicians in one of the most epic festivals of the year here in Tokyo. Starting at 1700 these days (but with plenty of sporadic dancing from around noon to 1600 during the day as well) you get a good view of the teams in daylight as well as dusk and evening. I took these photos of the Hisagoren (ひさご連) at yesterday’s festival. Especially the chibi dancers up front were as cute as buttons!
Tonight will be even better as the teams give their best for the final show. Since this is the biggest event for many teams around Japan many of them have been training hard especially for this night, so if you are in Tokyo and don’t mind the heat and the crowds, go over there and cheer them on!
Tonight starting at 1700 is the biggest Awaodori festival in mainland Japan, the Koenji Awaodori Matsuri. Running since 1957 it attracts about one million visitors and over 10 000 dancers during the two night event. Up until 2011 it always started at 1800, like most Awaodori festivals but in order to save electricity is has been set to start at 1700 since then, which in my opinion works well because you get both a little light and a little night.
However, there is also another massive Awaodori festival taking place in Minamikoshigaya in nearby Saitama tonight, as well as a huge Yosakoi festival in Harajuku. Lots of options tonight!
I took these photos from last year’s festival on the outer edges of the festival area, which are usually not very crowded. Here’s the great Shinjuku Ward Office official team the Tsutsujiren (新宿区役所つつじ連), the Awaodori Tamaki (阿波踊りたまき) and the Mitakaginzaren (みたか銀座連)!
The grand festival at the Kitazawa Hachimangu near Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa district is one of my favorites of the “larger” smaller festivals. There are so many things to see and lots of performances and some very very dedicated local people taking part in the festival. I took these photos in black and white at last year’s festival. This year’s festival is coming up in September!