Japan's biggest street festa, the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima, takes place this year over the Obon period of August 12-15.
Mass ranks (ren) of dancers, dancing through the streets of the city, are accompanied by music from drums, flutes, shamisen and bells.
The Awa Odori festival dates back to 1587 and the completion of Tokushima Castle, when residents of the town were rewarded with free sake doled out by feudal lord Hachisuka Iemasa (1558-1638) and danced with an unsteady gait through the streets.
A particular verse associated with Awa Odori is: Odoru aho ni (踊る阿呆に), Miru aho Onaji aho nara (見る阿呆, 同じ阿呆なら), Odorana son, son (踊らな損、損) ("The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and dance?").
There are dances during the day called nagashi and more lively dances at night known as zomeki.
The Awa Odori dance steps are fixed and vary for the two sexes. A visit to the Awa Odori Kaikan (Tel: 611 1611) in Tokushima will fill the visitor in on all he or she needs to know about the dance as well as the steps for each dance.
Japan has other Awa Odori festivals including one in Koenji in Tokyo begun by people from Tokushima in 1956.
An Awa Odori Paris version of the famous festival will take place this year in the French capital on October 1-2.
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