Thursday, October 22, 2015

Carpe Diem #843 Tokushima Awa Odori (Dance Festival)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Do you like this anniversary month? All those wonderful Japanese festivals are really a joy. It feels like we are part of those festivities and it feels like we are starting to become more one with the country that gave birth to our beloved haiku.
Today I have another wonderful Japanese Festival for you, Tokushima Awa Odori (Dance Festival), it is a festival full of traditional Japanese dances. Here is a You Tube video about Awa Odori:

Well ... did I say to much? Let me tell you a little bit more about this Awa Odori, this dance festival, which not only is celebrated in Tokushima, but everywhere in Japan, but also in other countries e.g Paris (France).

The Awa Dance Festival (Awa Odori) is held from 12 to 15 August as part of the Obon festival in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku in Japan. Awa Odori is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists every year.
Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians known as “ren” dance through the streets, typically accompanied by the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional obon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the Streets.
Awa is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima prefecture, and odori means dance.
The earliest origins of the dance style are found in the Japanese Buddhist priestly dances of Nembutsu-odori and hiji-odori of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), and also in kumi-odori, a lively harvest dance that was known to last for several days.
Credits: Awa Odori
The Awa Odori festival grew out of the tradition of the Bon odori which is danced as part of the Obon "Festival of the Dead", a Japanese Buddhist celebration where the spirits of deceased ancestors are said to visit their living relatives for a few days of the year. The term "Awa Odori" was not used until the 20th century, but Obon festivities in Tokushima have been famous for their size, exuberance and anarchy since the 16th century.
Awa Odori's independent existence as a huge, city-wide dance party is popularly believed to have begun in 1586 when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa, the daimyo of Awa Province hosted a drunken celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle. The locals, having consumed a great amount of sake, began to drunkenly weave and stumble back and forth. Others picked up commonly available musical instruments and began to play a simple, rhythmic song, to which the revelers invented lyrics.
There were (are) a few strict rules for this “dance event”:
1. The bon-odori may be danced for only three days.
2. Samurai are forbidden to attend the public celebration. They may dance on their own premises but must keep the gates shut. No quarrels, arguments or other misbehavior are allowed.
3. The dancing of bon-odori is prohibited in all temple grounds.
This suggests that by the 17th century, Awa’s bon-odori was a well-established as a major event, lasting well over three days — long enough to be a major disruption to the normal functioning of the city. It implies that samurai joined the festival alongside peasants and merchants, disgracing themselves with brawling and unseemly behavior. In 1674, it was “forbidden for dancers or spectators to carry swords (wooden or otherwise), daggers or poles”. In 1685 revelers were prohibited from dancing after midnight and dancers were not allowed to wear any head or face coverings, suggesting that there were some serious public order concerns.
In the Meiji Period (1868-1912) the festival died down as the Tokushima's indigo trade, which had financed the festival, collapsed due to imports of cheaper chemical dyes. The festival was revitalized at the start of the Showa Period (1926) when Tokushima Prefectural authorities first coined the name ‘Awa Odori’.
Credits: Awa Odori
During the daytime a restrained dance called Nagashi is performed, but at night the dancers switch to a frenzied dance called Zomeki. As suggested by the lyrics of the chant, spectators are often encouraged to join the dance.
Men and women dance in different styles. For the men’s dance: right foot and right arm forward, touch the ground with toes, then step with right foot crossing over left leg. This is then repeated with the left leg and arm. Whilst doing this, the hands draw triangles in the air with a flick of the wrists, starting at different points. Men dance in a low crouch with knees pointing outwards and arms held above the shoulders.
The women's dance uses the same basic steps, although the posture is quite different. The restrictive kimono allows only the smallest of steps forward but a crisp kick behind, and the hand gestures are more restrained and graceful, reaching up towards the sky. Women usually dance in tight formation, poised on the ends of their geta sandals.

Children and adolescents of both sexes usually dance the men's dance. In recent years, it has become more common to see adult women, especially those in their 20's, dancing the men's style of dance. 
Credits: Yakko Odori (gif)
Some of the larger ren (dance groups) also have a yakko odori, or kite dance. This usually involves one brightly dressed, acrobatic dancer, darting backwards and forwards, turning cartwheels and somersaults, with freestyle choreography. In some versions, other male dancers crouch down forming a sinuous line representing the string, and a man at the other end mimes controlling the kite.
Wow ... what a beautiful and festive festival this is ...

sailors loaded with sake
dancing through the Streets
Awa Odori is born

© Chèvrefeuille

it's a strange sight
sailors loaded with sake
dance like fools

© Chèvrefeuille

This wasn't an easy episode to write haiku about, but I like this festival a lot and I love to be part of such a festival once ... well keep on dreaming I would say to myself.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until October 25th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, a new CD Special, later on. For now ... have fun!

1 comment:

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