Tōkyō’s biggest Awa-Dance-Festival – jollier than ever
While the Kōenji Awa-Odori (高円寺阿波踊り / こうえんじあわおどり) in 2011 was affected by the power shortage after the great earthquake (the dance festival had to be shifted from the traditional evening hours to the afternoon), in 2012 it was the weather that prevented my visit. This year the time had finally come to dive into the crowd of people at the street dance festival in Kōenji (高円寺 / こうえんじ) in Tōkyō’s Suginami ward (杉並区 / すぎなみく), starting from the JR (Japan Rail) station there.
But don’t be mistaken: “Crowds” are not synonymous with “chaos” or “stress” in Japen. Here it simply means: It’s a bit more cramped with people, but also much more “orderly” than on a usual day. Not, because Japanese are necessarily more “orderly people” (but maybe they actually are), but most of all, because a lot is done to “organise” the crowd, to guide and to make sure the area remains clean. That all starts already when one leaves the train in Kōenji – various announcements and security guards make sure no-one gets into trouble.
I wouldn’t object too striktly, if someone said, it could be pure imagination, but I was under the impression that the Kōenji Awa-Odori had never been a wilder and happier party than this year – certainly much happier than 2011. There are about 150 dance groups entertaining the masses on the two nights of the festival. Even in 2012 (when the weather wasn’t all that good) they attracted about 1 million visitors. 2013 may have seen even more of them.
The dance groups are called “連” ( れん / ren) and they have at least 30 members – however also not more than 100. With other words: There are usually more than 10,000 dancers on the streets of Kōenji during the festival. And since their dance is a bit more impressive, when you see them move, here is the video of this year:
By the way: The festival is free of charge for the visitors – except those who donated at least 5,000 Yen (about 38.50 Euros) in conjunction with an application for a seat in designated areas. For the participating groups of dancers it is much less of “free fun”: Each group has to pay 35,000 Yen (about 270 Euros) for one-day participation, or 50,000 Yen (about 385 Euros) for two-day participation respectively.
Aside from the dance performances on the main street (the major events happen in Kōenji Minami (高円寺南 / こうえんじみなみ), the quarter south of the railway station), it’s the little back roads on the left an right that provide the most charming festival atmosphere. There are little stalls for food and drink at virtually every house. It is mostly the bars, restaurants and shops of the quarter that provide them. And there are quite a few streets that are filled with the smoke of the numerous barbecues. There can be one motto for the night only: Go there! Have a look! Be part of it! Celebrate!
Further postings on the subject of Awa Odori:
Kagurazaka Awa-Odori (神楽坂阿波踊り) (Engl./dt.)
– Sommerliche Ausgelassenheit mitten in Tōkyō
– Summerly Exuberance in the middle of Tōkyō
Kagurazaka Awa-Odori (神楽坂阿波踊り) (2012) (Engl./dt.)
– Wenn die Stadt dampft, ist das Sau-Rauslassen am schönsten
– When the city is soggy, it’s most fun to whoop it up
Kagurazaka Awa-Odori (神楽坂 阿波踊り) (2013) (Engl./dt.)
– Auch in 2013 wird die Tanz-Tradition gepflegt
– Also in 2013 the dance tradition is being kept up
Kagurazaka Awa Odori (神楽坂阿波踊り) (2015) (Engl./dt.)
– Tōkyōs gemütliches Straßentanzfestival
– Tōkyō’s cosy street dance festival
Kōenji Awa-Odori (高円寺阿波踊り) 2011 (Engl./dt.)
– Sommerliche Tanzfeste in Tōkyō (Teil 2)
– Summerly Dance Festivals in Tōkyō (Part 2)