Koenji in Tokyo's Suginami ward is one of Tokyo's most youthful districts, so it makes sense that one of Tokyo's most energetic traditional-style dance festivals, the Tokyo Koenji Awa-Odori, happens here every year.
|Dancing at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Suginami-ku, Tokyo.|
|Tightening a team member's obi belt,60th Koenji Awa-Odori Dance Parade, Tokyo, 2016.|
We were there to see the 60th Tokyo Koenji Awa-Odori 2016 on Sunday afternoon. The blurb says the crowd each year tops a million, and the packed streets of Koenji made that easy to believe.
|A last minute hand at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Suginami-ku, Tokyo.|
Thirty groups took part in this year's Tokyo Koenji Awa-Odori, each with its own yukata robes, colors, music, rhythms, and moves. Some have only about 35 members, others well over 100, many date from the early 1970s, others formed much more recently.
|Typical Awa-Odori attire at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Suginami-ku, Tokyo.|
The dancing may differ in the details between groups, but the Awa-Odori is a dance from the island of Shikoku - specifically Tokushima (formerly known as the province of Awa). This dance became the trademark of this event that, for its first few years, styled itself as the Koenji Baka-Odori, or the "Koenji Dance of Fools." The dance is an out-and-out "import" from Shikoku that was adopted simply because it was considered more appropriate than the "baka" antics to date. Some teams base their dancing on the real Awa-Odori more than others, but the aim of each team is to distinguish itself from the others with its look, style, sound and energy. Teams come from all over, one there clearly being marked "Shikoku University."
Get tickets for Koenji Awa-Odori festival
|International face of the Koenji Awa-Odori, Suginami-ku, Tokyo.|
Several foreigner members of various teams were in evidence, too. One I spoke to, a European woman who is a university student here, said she got to participate through friendships made in Koenji.
|A bit of chest at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan.|
Koenji has few big open roads - most of it is alleys and malls, so organizing a huge dance parade here takes tactics. Therefore, there are actually eight different venues, north and south of JR Koenji Station, from where the dancing starts, simultaneously, at 5 pm. We went to the starting point farthest south of the station, the Minami Awa-Odori spot, and spent about half and there watching several teams depart from there.
|Big bro, little sis at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Festival, Tokyo, Japan|
|Getting fierce in Koenji's alleyways at the Awa-Odori Festival, 2016.|
|Setting out from the Minami Awa-Odori Venue, Koenji.|
Enjoy a selection of photos of the 60 Koenji Awa-Odori below.
|Koenji Awa-Odori dancers in a Koenji alley.|
|A Koenji alleyway chock full of dancers and spectators, 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Festival, 2016.|
|Street vendors at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Festival, Tokyo.|
|Dancing in front of "Lover Soul," one of Koenji's many clothing shops.|
|Men and women dancers at the Koenji Awa-Odori Festival, Tokyo, 2016.|
|Letting go at the Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Tokyo, 2016.|
|Men getting down to it in a Koenji alley at the Awa-Odori Festival, Tokyo, 2016.|
|The Minami Awa-Odori Venue of the Koenji Awa-Odori Festival, 2016.|
|Men from different groups wait the start of the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori.|
|Men in pink, 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Tokyo, 2016.|
|Standard bearer and drummer at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Parade, Tokyo, 2016.|
|Boy dancer at the Koenji Awa-Odori Festival|
|Drums, mobile phone, lantern - before the Koenji Awa-Odori Festival Parade, Tokyo, 2016.|
|Tying a team member's obi belt at the 60th Koenji Awa-Odori Dance Parade, Tokyo, Japan.|
|Taisho-era fashion on a Koenji street corner, Awa-Odori, 2016.|
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