The Super Fun Harajuku Yosakoi

It’s the last weekend of August but summer isn’t over yet! And more importantly, there is still a handful of festivals left on Tokyo’s summer events calendar, like the Harajuku Omotesando Genki Festival Super Yosakoi. This lively two-day festival takes place on August 25-26 (2018) and showcases a Japanese dance called the yosakoi.  Continue reading “The Super Fun Harajuku Yosakoi”

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Bon Dancing in Shimokitazawa

Lanterns lanterns lanterns! This means only one thing: we are officially on Obon holidays. For one short week in the middle of August, the country takes a breather and lets its hair down. People make the most of this holiday by going back to their hometowns to visit family or even by going on a trip overseas. Continue reading “Bon Dancing in Shimokitazawa”

Dancing the Night Away

As the train doors opened at Koenji Station, a familiar sound immediately filled the air. Beating drums… whistling bamboo flutes… clanging bells… twanging shamisens… Ahhh, the sound of a Japanese summer festival!

The streets of Koenji were packed with hundreds of thousands of people this weekend for one of the most famous annual events in Tokyo, the Koenji Awa Odori. The wet weather did little to deter the masses – the drizzling rain of late has actually made it unusually cool for this time of the year! My friends and I donned our yukatas – probably for the last time this year – and joined the crowds to watch this exciting dance spectacle.

The festival lasts for 2 days, with events all day and the highlight, the dancing, in the evening. This year, there were 30 official dance teams, and roughly 80 general entry groups. In total, there were around 10,000 performers!! The groups begin from different start points and make their way around a circuit, chanting and pumping up the crowd as they go!

Each dance group is made up of a leader who carries lanterns on a long bamboo stick, followed by female dancers wearing a special straw hat, male dancers and entertainers wearing a bandana, and the musicians bringing up the rear. The main difference between the men’s and women’s style of dance is that the guys crouch down lower and are more open with their movements whereas the girls are more upright and elegant.

I love that even children got involved in this festival. Two hours of non-stop dancing is tiring even for adults, so it was really cute seeing the little ones doing their best to keep up! The colourful female dancers, in their high geta sandals and pointed hats, looked extra tall and beautiful. As a synchronised group, they were fantastic! The men were a little more rough and rowdy, but their happy nature and smiles were infectious!

The Koenji Awa Odori is energetic, vibrant and so much fun. It’s like the last hurrah, a farewell to summer.

The little performers:

The musicians:

The entertainers:

The dancers:

Summer Festivals: Kagurazaka Awa Odori

This festival should really be called the ‘cute kids festival’. Little elementary school children packed the main street stretching between Iidabashi Station and Kagurazaka Station. Awa Odori is a dance festival, originally from Tokushima prefecture, with groups of traditional dancers and musicians. This year’s Kagurazaka Awa Odori was held over four days: July 23, 24, 25, and 26.

At 6pm, the festivities kicked off. The children, in different ‘teams’, chanted and danced (wildly waving their arms in the air) as they made their way up the congested street.

As night drew near, the ‘professionals’ showed us all how it’s done. The Awa Odori dance is quite unique and eye-catching. The girls twist their body, knees high, arms out. Those sandals can’t be easy to dance in!

Up Next: Fuji Rock music festival