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Nice Is Awa Odori 2006

Nice Is Awa Odori

There is a place in Japan called Tokushima. It is a prefecture on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main land masses of Japan itself. Shikoku literally translating to four regions; represented by Tokushima, Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi. This small island was isolated from mainland Japan until the the 1960’s from the Kyushu facing side of the island… then later in the 80’s with the addition of two huge single span bridges linking road traffic for the first time to Naruto-shi in Tokushima-ken.  This isolation formed one of the most unique cultures in Japan as well as one of the most amazing traditions, Awa Odori. Awa, Tosa, Sanuki, and Iyo being the names that relate to the regions in the feudalistic eras of the islands history.

Being so isolated created such a strong, independent group of people (mostly whom were farmers and merchants) allowed in what the power of the shogunate and Imperial politicians saw as having too much freedom for descent. These powers were threatened by the large gatherings in the Obon festivals in the region of Awa. After the completion of the castle in Awa by Lord Hachisuka, the people were so happy that they drank and started to kick and flail around, creating what could be the most popular of all the obon-odori.  A dance emerged that was done without the normal constraint of the mass being in step and rhythm together, but instead asked the participant to dance freely as you feel to the sounds of flutes, percussion, and drums booming. The chants announce to the crowds that gathered to watch to also join in. Even if you come off looking like a fool, you are fool if you do not join, so you may as well dance as a fool and have fun. literally the first verse shows us the history of the song as stated:

Awa no dono sama hachisuka-kou ga ima ni nokoseshi awa odori
What Awa’s Lord Hachisuka left us to the present day is Awa Odori

The calls are then echoed back in a statement:
Odoru ahou ni (踊る阿呆に) ~ The dancers are fools
Miru ahou (見る阿呆) ~ The watchers are fools
Onaji ahou nara (同じ阿呆なら) ~ Both are fools alike so
Odorana son, son (踊らな損、損) ~ Why not dance?

The air is ringing as the dancers proceed on with the sounds of groups encouraging words

Yattosa, Yattosa, Hayccha, Yaccha, Eraiyatcha, eraiyatcha, yoi yoi yoi yoi

So enjoy the colors and imagery of these images from the 2006 festival.

You are amiss in life if you never get a chance to participate in this event, it is spectacular and deafening. It makes you dance, drink, eat, laugh, and enjoy just being so human if not for the four days only.

The colors of the costumes, the power of the taiko booming in the tight streets. The sounds trapped in the tall buildings in the entertainment areas. The streets filled with spectators chanting and cheering on the drummers, to reach a fervor of bass and percussion tinging and pinging to the rhythm . The beautiful people mixed with the old, the foreign visitors as welcomed as those that have come from all over Japan to participate in the festivities. A sensory overload as every sense is filled. The bodies moving together, the sounds pounding the ears and rattling your skin as the vendors are calling out to potential customers, the sweat beading down your face from the heat of the summer, the smells of booth food mixed with the scent of dashi oozing out of shops nearby, the colors of kimono yukatta jinbei lanterns flags umbrellas fashion decorations booths shops all creating a constantly changing and moving fabric of visuals, the flavors of all the food from basic noodle to elegant osechi. When you think of matsuri in Japan, none will ever match the welcoming feel of Tokushima people to their world.

I have many photos available from three different visits, but i offer these to you for your viewing pleasure. These images are from the inside, in mass. You can find many photos that show the symmetry and beauty of the dancers and groups filling the streets with their parade. But, I enjoy the feeling that i found being in so close to the action. The smiles are contagious, and everyone seems to have one on their face for four days.

links to exciting sites that offer the sound experience of Awa Odori: