Last Saturday, I went to see Awa-odori matsuri in Koenji. The original festival is held in Tokushima prefecture but because it is so popular and so much fun, it is also organized here in Tokyo each summer for the past 55 years. It is a part of the “Obon” celebration and is one of the largest dance festivals in Japan with as much as 1.3 million visitors each year. Obon is a “festival of the dead”, a Japanese celebration where the spirits of the deceased ancestors are believed to be visiting their living relatives for a few days of the year. It is also the official paid summer holidays in Japan (yep, elsewhere in the world you get to have at least a week off, in Japan you get three days). The dances are performed by dance groups “ren” and accompanied with shamisen, taiko drums, flute and bells. Performers are dressed in traditional “Obon” dance costumes. They chant and sing as they parade through the shopping streets of Koenji. The festival originated in the 16th century during Tokugawa period and was famous for its size, exuberance and anarchy. It is indeed very loud and the costumes are barely hiding anything, especially male ones. Now, they tend to wear shorts underneath their yukata but imagine the old times…^-^
Anyway, I went to Koenji all by myself but happened to meet a lot of familiar faces among all those enormous crowds of people. I also got to meet dancers who study Russian and who regularly watch my show on TV. That was a pleasant surprise. They all spoke Russian very well!!
I really enjoyed the festival, the whole atmosphere of the parade and music and people chanting and dancing. Although, I must admit that dancers are the ones who seemed to have the most fun. Next year, I want to try to participate in Awa-odori. I spotted a few foreign girls among dancers so I think it is totally doable. ^-^