A Happy Festival in Kagurazaka

Awa Odori dancing on the streets of Tokyo

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

Summer is the time of festivals in Japan. I’d never visited Japan in summer, but my visit this year occurred at the end of July. From a great many variety of festivals to choose from, I decided to go with only a few as my visit this time would be short. Kagurazaka Matsuri held in the centre of Tokyo appealed me the most as it combined the traditional Awa Odori of Tokushima Prefecture and music played with traditional Japanese instruments.

Straw hats united all the costumes
Straw hats united all the costumes

I arrived at Kagurazaka Dori close to Iidabashi Station at the beginning of the dance procession, around 7pm. Upon my arrival, the first group of dancers began. Each group was dressed in similar outfits, though differentiated by colour and pattern. All of the dancing girls wore the same style of straw hat. Each group was lead by a man with a lantern attached to a long stick and behind each group followed the musicians playing drums, flutes, biwa and other traditional instruments.

An approaching group
An approaching group

I hurried up to the head of the procession so as to not to miss anything. Among the dancers I saw people of all ages including little children and senior citizens. Many of them were happy and excited while others were concentrating very hard on doing their best to repeat dance movements, especially the younger ones. They were cute to watch. I also noticed a few non-Japanese people among the dancers whom I am sure shared the joy of performance with their friends. Watching the procession I thought that it seemed a lot more fun to be a participant rather than a watcher! All of those traditional outfits and dances to music really created a sense of unity amongst the people, a real feeling of connection with previous generations and the culture of their homeland.

Another group of musicians
Another group of musicians

Though the street was full of people both standing and sitting on either side of the road, I was able to find good spots to watch and take photos. It’s hard to describe what I felt - happy, excited, a desire to join in and dance with the dancers. Everyone seemed so happy! The dancing procession continued for about two hours, ending at 9pm. Good timing too as the rain soon followed. The street food stalls started closing but I was able to catch a few treats before they did.

The Awa Odori in Kagurazaka really was an unforgettable experience and one I'd highly recommend. I can't wait to come and see future festivals!

Getting there

Kagurazaka Dori (street) starts from Iidabashi Station on the JR Chuo Line.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: https://gurushots.com/f10384/photos Matane!

Join the discussion

Reynald Ventura 5 days ago
Did you dance, Elena?
Elena Lisina Author 5 days ago
No, I didn't as it rained by the end and the festival was closed, but I really wanted to join and I'd also like to try a drum! ;D