If you are in Tokyo on the 9th and 10th of August, I recommend visiting the Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival for some fantastic Awaodori fun! OI visited on the Saturday event of last year’s festival and got these two groups, the Toshusai (東洲斎) and the Showashinyoginkoren (昭和信用金庫連) which is a team made up of people working in a shinkin bank, a sort of cooperative credit union).
Shimokitazawa is easy to reach on the Odakyu line or on the Keio Inokashira line. The station was recently rebuilt and is now quite a maze and much in contrast with the surrounding area of funky little shops, narrow back streets and cool clubs and bars, good old Shimokita remains the same though! Try to be there early and if you find it crowded try to move away from the station area to find the spots with fewer spectators!
At the end of August every year Tokyo prepares for the massive Koenji Awaodori parade and performance. Over 10 000 dancers from all over Japan join in to make this two day event one of the biggest traditional dance festivals in the country. Koenji is not big and the place get absolutely packed as hundreds of thousands of people cram into every available alley and sidewalk to watch the hundreds of teams performing.
Last year I visited on one of the days, and saw dozens of teams, three of which I share here. The Wakakomaren (若駒連) from Tokyo, the Hamamatsuren (浜松連) from Shizuoka Prefecture’s Hamamatsu City, and the Yamagata ‘ndazuren (山形んだず連) obviously from Yamagata prefecture. Although the official homeland of Awaodori is in Shikoku’s Tokushima Prefecture the attraction of this kind of dance is so powerful that it has spread all over the country.
If you are in Tokyo during August 23rd and 24th, don’t miss this big event!
It is that time of the year again, it is time to get ready for the Awaodori dance festival season to start again! Despite being quite far from the Awaodori homeland, the island prefecture of Tokushima in the south of Japan, Tokyo is actually home to over a dozen big Awaodori festivals, and there are even more if you count the ones in nearby Saitama prefecture and Kanagawa prefecture.
I took these photos of some Awaodori beauties of all ages back in mid-season last year. These dancers are part of several different teams, or “ren” as they are called: The Tomoeren (巴連), The Keyakiren (けやき連), the famous Shinsuiren (新粋連) and the cleverly named Narimasu Chirudoren (成増チルド連) that is focused on kids.
One of the first big Awaodori festivals (there are many more, smaller ones) to hit Tokyo is the Kagurazaka festival in July, and also smaller ones in Hasune, and bigger ones in Shimokitazawa. Since I am a complete Awaodori fool you can find most of the big Awaodori festivals covered in the “back issues” of this blog. Just use the tags at the bottom to find them!
One of the best summer festivals in the capital is undoubtedly the massive three day Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita. The last few years the festival goers have been entertained by a great Awaodori performance by the local team, Kitanogomonren (北の御門連). The team was founded by and for people living in and near the Iidabashi, Kudanshita and Fujimi ditricts. I took these photos of their performance at Yasukuni Shrine, beautifully (although very sparingly) lit up by the many lanterns of the festival against the backdrop of the blue beams from the twin searchlights.
It is hard to tell in these photos but the evening was exceptionally hot, with daytime temperatures between 34 and 35 degrees celsius (about 93 degrees F). The dancers somehow managed to give us half an hour of concentrated dancing! Their uniforms must have been soaked afterwards.