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About Awa Dance


Awa Dance

What is Awa Dance?


It is a folk dance that was born in Tokushima, southern Japan. This dance is still practiced today and you can see it during the Tokushima festival. It is a dance which is full of freedom and joy.

Awa dance or ’Awa Odori’ is a dance that is:

★ Happy

★ Dynamic

★ Funny

★ Free

This dance is characterized by the strength of people.

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During the year, people form groups (连 - REN in Japanese), train in the evening after finishing their work (during the day they are civil servants, bankers, merchants, employees, etc.), and dance on the street during summer festivals - reminding us of Brazilian carnivals.

Over time, this dynamic dance reached the cities of Tokyo and Tokushima. Each year there are thousands of people including children, adults and elderly people dancing altogether on the streets with big smiles.


More than 400 years of history!

- It is not known precisely when the dance was born. There are very few written records.

The documents indicate that 400 years ago, this dance was already existing.


There are many assumptions about the birth of this dance. However, we do not know the story accurately, mainly because of the Second World War when many important documents were burned.

There are two assumptions that are best known.

Assumption 1 ★ the Hachisuga castle ★

When the Lord Hachisuka Iemasa (1558-1638) celebrated the construction of the castle of Tokushima, people began to dance.

In the song called "Yoshiko no bushi", there is a sentence mentioning: "It’s a dance that the lord of Awa, Hachisuka is leaving us now, Awa Dance"

However, the people of Tokushima do not really believe in this story. They say the Lord comes from another region and that it is impossible to imagine that the dance was born at that time.

However, the oldest document talking about Awa describes the people of Tokushima being joyful at the party.

Assumption 2 ★ celebration of the dead in July-August ★

Welcoming dance for the souls of ancestors.

At the time, there were three kinds of good dances in Tokushima.

Awa Dance is perhaps the result in combining these three dances.

- Kumi Odori

Composed by a great dance team, about 100 to 120 people.

- Zomeki

The musicians are under an umbrella and with this music, some people dance in a circle.

- Niwaki Odori

Improv sketch.

After World War II

During the Second World War, people refrained from dancing. During the last years of the war, Tokushima was devastated by aerial bombardments. As a result, 60% of the city was reduced to ashes, causing about 3000 casualties.

In 1946, Awa dance suddenly reborn and since then, is growing strongly. At first, people who did not dare to dance used to hide their faces with a tissue.

Soon, great excitement prevailed in the city.

We can imagine how the people of Tokushima regained courage.

Spot Light

Spot light

Korou Hayashi (1887-1965)

Awa Odori’s main figure.

Japanese realist painter, a researcher in regional history, film speaker, radio commentator. He provided a great service by preserving and developing regional arts.

He is a very important figure of the Tokushima area.

Spot light

Music background

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  • Awa Odori

Today, the Shamisen, the Odaiko and Shime-daiko are instruments used in the Awa Odori dance. However, before the war, people performed the dance and experimented several other instruments. For example, the shawm, the violin, western instruments, they even used the stove!

This flexibility and creativity as well as the spirit of experimentation strongly characterize the spirit of Awa Odori.


Some references about the history of Awa Odori.

- Http://

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