Tokyo Koenji Awaodori 2012


There are numerous summer festivals across the city but the annual Koenji Awaodori Festival has to be the most anticipated one. I, for one was looking forward to it, so I decline an office invitation to go to Hakone for a BBQ feast.

A two day event (August 25-26,2012) featuring 188 groups of dancers distinguished usually by the color of their costume, the Koenji Awaodori, if you ask me is the summer festival that you should go if you have to attend one festival only.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

With a total of 12,000 dancers and a crowd of spectators to match, both occupying the nine routes closed street of Koenji including shotengai (shopping area), to find a spot with great viewing point is crucial.

Though the event starts at 5pm, there are many viewers who arrived early; they setup a picnic mat on the street, brought beer and snacks in order to watch the performance more comfortable than those like me who arrived just in time. I needed to walk and walk around in search for the right spot to be able to take decent pictures, but I did not brave on climbing the nearby building like the others did.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Despite the humidity, the dancers on their traditional costume are all smiles as they prepare for their turn on the street.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Most women wore Yukuta (summer kimono made of light cotton materials), with amigasa (hut made of woven rush grass), and of course my favorite- white socks on a geta sandals (elevated wooden base sandal, sort of clogs and flip-flops hybrid), while the men wore a more loose, light cotton robe called “happi”.

The clothes is associated with how they move- the women are expected to dance gracefully, while the men are expected to dance dynamically, so the costume must be loose fitting for them to be able to move freely.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

A yellow balloon archway indicates the start of the stage for the performers. From here, the group members will enter one by one in full performance mode.
koenji awadori 2012

A group of performers consists of the following.

A flag bearer in front usually accompanied or followed by cute kids garnering so many “kawaii!” (cute!) comments.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Next in line, slowly making it to the spotlight are my favorites- “ojiisan” (grandfather) together with the rest of the men. Ojiisan are quite the crowd charmer with some of them doing intentional funny moves.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Then, it’s the ladies turn.
First to enter are the ladies wearing similar costume with the men, performing the same move in a more finesse manner. Look at those strong, lean legs and that smile.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Then, the most photograph of all the team members- the ladies with their mesmerizing huts and geta sandals.
koenji awadori 2012

Followed by the group musicians – strings, flutes and taiko drums.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

To signify the end of the stage is a white marker. From here, the rest of dancers who finished performing will be cheering and waiting for the rest of team.
koenji awadori 2012

So, what is “Awa” dance style?

A 400 years old tradition and originating from the island of Shikoku at Tokushima Prefecture, the “Awa” moves consist of a bend legs and a raised hands.

On the bend position, the men raises their hands above the foreheads, waiving the wrist up and down.While, the women with raise hands turn their palms inwards and uses their geta sandals elevated portion to control their leg movements.

Moving along with the beat of taiko drums, strings and flutes, the dancers at the same time are chanting “Erai yatcha erai yatcha yoi-yoi-yoi-yoi!” (“Some fools dance while some fools watch..”), as if encouraging every viewers to get-up on their seats and dance as well.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

I confess, I tried imitating the “awa” dance style.I thought it will be easy since the dancers appears to be just playing around, but actually it is a challenge.

The party continued up to 8pm and the performers doesn’t show any signs of weariness. They were still on such high spirit and full of smiles, so are the rest of the appreciative crowd.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

When the clock turned 8pm, the dancing stop. The viewers stood up from their picnic mats and Koenji was filled with the sound of applause and congratulations.

No doubt, it was a successful festival. As much as the viewers enjoy the performances, you can sense that the performers had a grand time as well.
koenji awadori 2012
koenji awadori 2012

Koenji Awaodori is only one of the many festivals in Japan that showcase not only the cultural aspect but the willingness of its people to preserve a tradition.

An ordinary street dance festival but the atmosphere of celebration, the details of preparations and performances is overwhelmingly good, so just imagine what Japan can do if they are awarded the privilege to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. I’m betting it will be an Opening Ceremony to remember.

23 thoughts on “Tokyo Koenji Awaodori 2012

  1. Action packed performance!!!! Nice to see so many dancers along with kids and grandfathers joining the party 🙂

  2. Koenji is one of my favourite parts of Tokyo, I love all the used clothing shops and the atmosphere there. I didn’t know they had a festival. I’ll try to go sometime =)

    1. i went there to browse on some used clothing shops too and try to see the “punk rock” culture but too shy to enter the bars 🙂

  3. Fascinating! We just don’t have festivals like this in our country. Japan has such a rich culture. Loved the pics – and those costumes! everybody wearing the correct item for their group – what organisation this must take.

    1. yeah, agree with you! it’s one of the best thing to experience in Japan!
      you have a beautiful country Tomiyama-san 🙂

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