Awa Odori (阿波踊り)

Awa Odori in Tsukishima (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Awa Odori in Tsukishima
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Between the 12-15 August, in Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県) on Shikoku Island (四国), and part of the Obon celebrations, Awa Odori (阿波踊り) is held, and is ranked as the largest dance festival in Japan. “But, why are you writing about this now? I wanted to see that!” you might be yelling at the screen. Just stay calm, because the second biggest Awa Odori event in Japan is held in Koenji (高円寺) in Tokyo in late August every year. So it is just in the right time. 🙂

So what is Awa Odori? And where does it come from? Well, as with other Japanese dancing, groups of choreographed dancers and musicians dance through the streets, usually accompanied by Shamisen, bells, flutes, and Taiko drums. “Awa” (阿波) is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima prefecture, and odori (踊り) means dance.

The earliest origins for Awa Odori is the dances that Buddhist priests performed during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). However, the modern dance grew out of the traditional dance of Obon, the Buddhistic festival of the dead where it is believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors come to visit. The term “Awa Odori” was first used in the 20th century, but even before that, the Obon celebrations in Tokushima was notorious for their size, exuberance, and anarchy since the end of the Sengoku Period (戦国時代).

Dance of Fools (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Dance of Fools
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

During the daytime a restrained dance called “Nagashi” (流し) is performed, but at night the dancers switch to a frenzied dance called “Zomeki” (騒き).

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.
Video for men’s dance:
Video for women’s dance:
The videos are in Japanese, but the instructions given are pretty much the same as in the text above. Just watch and follow along. ^_^ )

In May 2015, Japanese production company Tokyo Story will produce a substantially big version of Awa Odori in Paris by bringing there hundreds of dancers from Japan. “Awa Odori Paris 2015”, as the event is called, would reproduce the “fever” of Awa Odori. This event will be a first step to promote Awa Odori and the Japanese “matsuri” culture abroad.

I don’t know about you guys, but I really want to get dancing right now! “Yattosa! Yattosa!” (^_^) Keep your eyes peeled for info about Awa Odori in Kouenji in our events page, or search for local events. See you in the crowd, perhaps!

Awa Odori dancers.

Awa Odori dancers.

Kuroda Kambei at Edo Tokyo Museum

Every year, NKH airs a drama that runs almost the whole year, something they call 大河ドラマ (“Taiga Drama”). This year the Taiga drama is about Kuroda Kanbei, a man of great ambition, and who later became the chief strategic adviser to both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The drama is called 軍師官兵衛 (“Gunshi Kanbei”), and you can see it on NHK all through the year.

Coinciding with the drama being shown on NHK, The Edo Tokyo Museum has a special exhibition about Kuroda Kanbei, starting today, and continuing to June 13th.

Courtesy of Edo Tokyo Museum

Courtesy of Edo Tokyo Museum

Price for admission is as follows:

Prices Ticket to special exhibit Ticket to normal exhibit and special exhibit
General: 1 300 Yen 1 520 Yen
University student or student at specialist school 1 040 Yen 1 210 Yen

If you have seen the drama, are interested in samurais and the Sengoku period, or just want to get a glimpse of Japans in days past, check out this exhibition. And I always recommend the permanent exhibition as well, if you don’t have a particular interest in Kanbei.

More info about the Edo Tokyo Museum is found HERE.

Laos Festival in Yoyogi Park

Did you enjoy the Thai Festival last weekend? Or did you miss the Thai Festival, but want to experience the festivities, food and culture of south-east Asia? Then you are in luck! Because this weekend there will be a Laos-themed Festival in Yoyogi park.

As with the previous festival, it is free to participate, and the event will be held on both Saturday (May 24) and Sunday (May 25), and you can enjoy the festivities between 10 am – 7 pm.

More info is found here (in Japanese):

Laos Festival logo

Thai Festival in Yoyogi Park

If you don’t want to go to the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa, or might feel you will get a Japanese Culture overdose after one day at Sensou-ji, set your course to Yoyogi Park, and experience Thai Culture!

Getting in is free, and the festival is on both Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm. The theme of the festival is “Thai spices and herbs”, and you can eat delicious Thai food, and listen to Thai music with live bands on the stage.

More info about the festival can be found here (Japanese):

Thai Festival Pic

Sanja Matsuri at Asakusa Shrine

The third sunday of May every year, at the Asakusa Shrine (浅草神社 “Asakusa Jinja”), you can experience one of the three biggest Shinto festivals in Tokyo. This weekend, with it’s peak on Saturday May 17th, it is time again for “Sanja Matsuri” (三社祭, lit. “Three Shrines Festival”), an event that is considered the largest and wildest festival!

The festival is held in in honor of the three men that founded the Sensou-ji (浅草寺 “Sensou-ji”), and big parades are held, where three portable shrines, which are referenced in the name of the festival, are the centre of attention, but there are also traditional music and dancing, and over the three days it’s held it attracts millions, tourists and locals alike.


On friday at 1 pm, there is a big parade, and later in the afternoon there will be traditional dancing in the “Haiden” and the “Kaguraden” buildings in the temple grounds.

On Saturday at 12:30 pm there is a large parade with hundreds of local portable shrines, that tour around the town of Asakusa.

On Sunday at 6 am the three main portable shrines start their tour of the local area, and are returned around 8 pm.

If you want to experience Japanese culture, see traditional dancing, listen to traditional music, and maybe get a glimpse of a “yakuza” or two showing of their tattoos, as well as experiencing the biggest festival in Tokyo, this is definitely the event for you.


We are very excited to share with you this amazing event. Nippon Collection will be holding their first….

KIMONO salon ~for beginners~


Date: May 24th (Saturday) & 25th (Sunday)12:00-18:00

(You will be asked to pay a drink fee of 500 yen at the door)

Venue: 105, 3-28-5 Chidagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

You will get:

→ Cheap but good quality KIMONO and YUKATA (casual type of Kimono for the summer)!
→ One and only Japanese designer’s accessories!

There will be English speaking KIMONO advisers who will help you find the best KIMONO style! You can also chat with everyone over a nice cup of Japanese tea!

Click here for more information →
Or contact Nippon Collection at →
Click the join button here →

Don’t forget to like Nippon Collection’s page on Facebook!

Koinobori 鯉のぼり

Koinobori, which in Japanese means “carp streamer,” can often be found hanging in front of houses, shops and rivers around this time. These carp streamers that are made by drawing carp patterns on cloth (or paper), are hung to celebrate Children’s Day on May 5th, the last day of Golden Week.

In the past, Children’s Day was actually celebrated to honor boys. The carp was chosen as a symbol for this day because of its strong will and great power to swim up the river, against the flow. Adults hoped that boys would grow to become determined and courageous like carps. On the other hand, Hinamatsuri or Doll’s Day on March 3rd was celebrated to honor girls. Traditionally, on this day, girls would receive dolls that were passed down to their own grandmothers and mothers.

Although there is still a tendency among many Japanese families to celebrate boys on Children’s Day, it has definitely become a more general event for all Japanese children. Happy Children’s Day to all the children in Japan and around the world!

Koinobori made by children from an elementary school near Mitakadai in Tokyo.

Check out this traditional Children Day’s song!

Golden Week

The beginning of Golden Week calls for…..a post on Golden Week!

What is it exactly? Well… Japan, around this time we have consecutive public holidays as follows.

April 29th – Showa Day (昭和の日・しょうわのひ・Showa no hi)
May 3rd – Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日・けんぽうきねんび・Kenpo kinenbi)
May 4th – Greenery Day (みどりの日・みどりのひ・Midori no hi)
May 5th – Children’s Day (こどもの日・こどものひ・Kodomo no hi)

Many Japanese people effectively use their paid time off before and after these public holidays so that they will have a longer break. This is what we call Golden Week.

Golden Week along with the New Year holiday in January and the Obon holiday in August is probably the only time an average working Japanese person can enjoy a nice vacation. However, it can be difficult to plan a getaway because during this time, hotel prices and flight tickets to popular destinations soar to more than twice the usual amount and even if you can afford to go somewhere, it will probably be fully booked. Luckily, most stores, especially in big cities, continue to run to cater to those who decide to remain at home.

A few years ago, the Japanese government along with big Japanese companies started to consider shifting the period of Golden Week according to region. However, since there has not been any news coverage on this this year, it seems they have not come to a conclusion yet.

What will you be doing during Golden Week this year?

There are plenty of events within the Kanto region for those of you staying at home. Why not check one out?


Hanami 花見

Today after class, we went for a walk around the Imperial Palace with one of our students to see the beautiful sakura, which were in full bloom. Hanami, which can be translated directly to “flower viewing” in Japanese is said to date all the way back to the Nara Period (710-794). However, this was mainly enjoyed by the upper class who had the privilege of being surrounded by such beauty.

In recent decades, hanami has come to mean a whole lot more than just looking at flowers. Anyone who has been to a hanami event will probably tell you that it involved a lot of eating and drinking. Even though the sakura may not be in full bloom, it doesn’t really matter!

We hope that all of you reading this will take advantage of this beautiful weather. Go out and buy some snacks and drinks and enjoy one of Japan’s most-loved event of the year!

Hanami 1

Hanami 2