Awa Odori 2018 schedule in Tokyo-Kanto

This is the 2018 schedule of Awa Odori dance festivals to be held in the Tokyo/Kanto area (Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures) from June to October 2018. Nobody has compiled such a schedule so I did it myself.

Most Awa Odori are held in the summer and a few are held in autumn. A few are held as part of a local festival like Tanabata. Most are held on two days, but a few are held only on one day. Some Awa Odori also have a festival eve events on the day before the Awa Odori.

Official websites usually have information only in Japanese. Click on the train station names to see a Google Map of that station. Double question marks (??) indicate unconfirmed info. Also, an illustrated list of essential Awa Odori vocabulary is provided at the end. (Great for people learning Japanese.)

Go to Schedule by Month:

June | July | August | September | October

Note for spectators:
Summer can be very hot and humid. Be prepared with cold drinks, ice pack, etc. Rain (including typhoons) is always possible. A raincoat is better than an umbrella in crowds. Watch the weather and be prepared. Heavy rain or storms can cancel the event. Take pictures/videos only from the sidelines, do not enter the parade route to shoot. Do not use tripods. Strollers should not be used. And no smoking.

Festivals can always be canceled in bad weather. Typhoons and rainstorms are always possible in summer. If the weather forecast looks bad, check whether the festival will be held.

*Awa Odori in Tokushima is held annually on Aug. 12th–15th, 2018.

*Awa Odori scheduled for July 28–29 may be canceled due to the typhoon.

東京・関東地方の阿波おどりの2018年の日程(英語)

Compiled by Philbert Ono, Updated: Aug. 25, 2018

–JUNE 2018 (6月)–

Hibiya Expo Oedo Matsuri 日比谷大江戸まつり (Tokyo)
・When: June 9–10, 2018, 10:00 am–8:00 pm (till 6:00 pm on 10th)
・Where: Hibiya Park, near Hibiya Station, Kasumigaseki Station, and JR Yurakucho Station.
・About: Only a few awa odori troupes appear in this parade of different festivals.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.hibiyapark.info/2018/hibiya-expo-2018/

–JULY 2018 (7月)–

Koiwa Awa Odori 小岩阿波おどり (Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 7, 2018, 6:15 pm–8:15 pm
・Where: Near JR Koiwa Station, North Exit (JR Sobu Line).
・About: New awa odori that started four years ago. About 15 troupes.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://koiwa-awaodri.jimdo.com/

Oedo Niiza Matsuri (Awa Odori) 大江戸新座祭り (阿波おどり) (Niiza, Saitama)
・When: July 21, 2018, 3:30 pm–7:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Niiza Station (JR Musashino Line), South Exit, Furusato Niiza-kan hall area.
・About: The Niiza Awa Odori was held for 32 years until 2014. It has been replaced by this Oedo Niiza Festival in 2015. It is now a local summer festival starting at 11:00 am and featuring a variety of stage entertainment and performers including a school band, hip hop, and samba dancers before climaxing with Awa Odori in the end during 5:05 pm–7:30 pm. About 20 Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.ooedo-niiza.com/

Kagurazaka Matsuri Festival (Awa Odori) 神楽坂まつり(阿波おどり) (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 27–28, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm (Children’s dance on 28th from 6 pm to 7 pm) (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Iidabashi Station (JR Sobu Line and subway lines), Kagurazaka Station (Tozai Line), Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station (Oedo Line).
・About: Held since 1972. Over 40 dance troupes and a total of 3,700 participants. The local troupe is Kagurazaka Kagura-ren with over 100 members.
・Video: https://youtu.be/wn7l7WB1ndc
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=698
・Official website: http://www.kagurazaka.in/kagurazaka_festival/47th_festival/

Kasei Awa Odori かせい阿波おどり (Nakano-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28 (4:00 pm–6:00 pm CANCELLED DUE TO TYPHOON) and 29 (5:00 pm–8:00 pm), 2018
・Where: Near Toritsu Kasei Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Held since 1979. About 10 troupes will dance along the narrow shopping street near the train station. Since the dance route is narrow, you can see the dancers up close. The dance route is cut in half (north and south) by the train line. Local troupe is Kasei-ren formed by the local neighborhood when the festival started.
・Video: https://youtu.be/62G4ZJHJSBE
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/%E3%81%8B%E3%81%9B%E3%81%84%E9%80%A3-369020693216519/

Kitamachi Awa Odori きたまち阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm
・Where: Near Tobu Nerima Station, South Exit (Tobu-Tojo Line). (DUE to the TYPHOON, to be held indoors at the Kitamachi Jr. High Gymnasium)
・About: Kitamachi is a small neighborhood near Tobu-Nerima Station. Over 20 dance troupe including local troupes from Kitamachi: Ponpoko-ren and Jajauma-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/du1UHBzhS1U
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=697
・Official website: http://www.kitamachi-awaodori.com/

Mobara Awa Odori (Mobara Tanabata Matsuri) もばら阿波おどり (Mobara, Chiba)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:10 pm (CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Mobara Station (JR Sotobo Line), East Exit, Sun City shopping street.
・About: Part of the Mobara Tanabata Matsuri to be held on July 27–29, 2018. On July 28, an opening ceremony will be held at 5:30 pm, and Awa Odori dancing will start at 6 pm. Eleven troupes will appear along a circular route starting and ending at Sogo Shimin Center.
・Video:
・Photos: http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/picture/awaodori2016.html
・Official website: http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/bbs2.html

Koganei Awa Odori 小金井阿波おどり (Koganei, Tokyo)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Musashi Koganei Station, North and South Exits.
・About: There are multiple dance venues near the station, making it less crowded at each one. About 24 troupes will appear each evening.
・Video: https://youtu.be/bEfUbibz9AA
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=932
・Official website: http://www.koganei-awaodori.jp/

Kanagawa Yamato Awa Odori 神奈川大和阿波おどり (Yamato, Kanagawa)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near Yamato Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line and Sotetsu Line)
・About: About 16 troupes. On July 15, they also hold an indoor performance (“Zomeki Yamato”) in Yamato Geijutsu Bunka Hall (¥1,500 paid seating).
・Video: https://youtu.be/RFGHs7gD3jM
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=335
・Official website: http://awaodori.cside6.com/

–AUGUST 2018 (8月)–

Kojiya Awa Odori 糀谷阿波おどり (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 3–4, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near Kojiya Station (Keikyu Airport Line).
・About: Two-day festival long a local shopping street with 10 dance troupes and 600 participants.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/%E7%B3%80%E8%B0%B7%E5%95%86%E5%BA%97%E8%A1%97-%E9%98%BF%E6%B3%A2%E8%B8%8A%E3%82%8A-1390477227662992/
https://ota-tokyo.com/ja/%e7%b3%80%e8%b0%b7%e9%98%bf%e6%b3%a2%e3%81%8a%e3%81%a9%e3%82%8a/

Higashi-Rinkan Awa Odori (Summer Wanival) 東林間サマーわぁ!ニバル (Sagamihara, Kanagawa)
・When: Aug. 4–5, 2018, 5:20 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Higashi-Rinkan Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line, local train only, do not ride any express trains).
・About: Quite a big event with over 20 troupes on each day. Local troupes from Sagamihara are Higashi-Rinkan-ren, Hotaru-ren, Goraku-ren, Aun-ren, Hiyori-ren, and Issui-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s
・Photos: https://higashirinkan-awaodori.com/2017album/
・Official website: https://higashirinkan-awaodori.com/

Naka-Meguro Summer Festival 中目黒夏まつり (Meguro-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 4, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Naka-Meguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line and Hibiya Line).
・About: It’s a two-day summer festival. The first day (Aug. 4) features Awa Odori (27 troupes) and the second day (Aug. 5) has yosakoi dancers (33 groups). At 5:30 pm on both days, there’s an opening ceremony. They dance along the shopping streets next to the train/subway station, but the streets are narrow and it’s mostly standing room only. Normal people also walk along the streets so it can be hard to get good photos. But you get to see the dancers and musicians up close.
・Video: https://youtu.be/V6TnqV9OWww
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.e-nakameguro.com/

Sayama Irumagawa Tanabata Matsuri (Awa Odori) 狭山入間川七夕まつり (Sayama, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 5, 2018, 4:30 pm–6:30 pm??
・Where: Near Sayama-shi Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Two-day summer festival featuring a variety of performers and events. Fireworks on the first evening and Awa Odori on the second day from 4:30 pm–6:30 pm?? Eight Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Video: https://youtu.be/4B9EeVNifyU
・Photos: http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/photonews/tanabata/2017/0806.html
・Official website: http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/mainevent/tanabata/
https://www.facebook.com/tanabata.sayama

Kumegawa Awa Odori 東村山久米川阿波おどり (Higashi-Murayama, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kumegawa Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line) and Yasaka Station (Seibu Tamako Line), Wing-dori, Shopping Promenade Yasaka.
・About: Local troupe is Kumegawa-ren.
・Video:
・Photos: http://kumegawaawa.wixsite.com/kumegawaawaodori/phot
・Official website: http://kumegawaawa.wixsite.com/kumegawaawaodori
https://ja-jp.facebook.com/KumegawaAwaodori

Mitaka Awa Odori 三鷹阿波おどり (Mitaka, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18–19, 2018, 6:00pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Mitaka Station, South Exit (JR Chuo Line).
・About: About 26 troupes parading on a straight road along the shopping street. Many troupes are from Mitaka like Inokashira-ren, Mitaka-ren, and Rhythm-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/dlc_WrHMK0g
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=763
・Official website: http://awaodori.mitaka.ne.jp/

Shimo-Kitazawa Ichibangai Awa Odori 下北沢一番街 阿波おどり (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18-19, 2018, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Shimo-Kitazawa Station, North Exit (Inokashira Line and Odakyu Line).
・About: Held along the Ichibangai shopping streets.There will be around 12 dance troupes on both nights, including Hifumi-ren and Yattoko-ren which are from Shimo-Kitazawa. One troupe will be for anyone to join in and dance (tobi-iri-ren). From 8:10 pm to 8:30 pm, each troupe will give a dance performance at designated places. Note that the streets are quite narrow with little room to sit. It’s basically a standing room-only festival.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.shimokita1ban.com/en/awaodori

Ontake Furusato Odori おんたけ ふるさと踊り (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 19, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Ontakesan Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line).
・About: A two-day dance festival with a Bon dance held on the first night (Aug. 18) and Awa Odori on the second night. There will be around five Awa Odori dance troupes. Most are quite famous in Tokyo. The local troupes includes Kusunoki-ren.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://otakushoren.com/cp-bin/wp/events/10501

Koenji Awa Odori (Koenji, Suginami-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi subway line).
・About: Tokyo’s biggest Awa Odori with over 50 dance troupes each evening and a million spectators over the two days. There are multiple venues or roads where they dance. The larger roads are very crowded, but the narrower parade paths are less crowded. Go early if you want to sit in a good spot.
・Video: https://youtu.be/SEBnCpKYk0Y
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=337
・Official website: http://koenji-awaodori.com/

Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori 南越谷阿波おどり (Koshigaya, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 4:20 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Minami-Koshigaya Station (JR Musashino Line) and Shin-Koshigaya Station (Tobu Skytree Line).
・About: Big Awa Odori with about 80 troupes over the festival period. Four dance venues including a stage and indoor hall. Festival eve on Aug. 24 at 7:00 pm–9:00 pm at the Koshigaya Community Center. They will also have dancers performing inside the Koshigaya Community Center on both days.
・Video: https://youtu.be/upPtDNPwkuI
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=762
・Official website: http://www.minamikoshigaya-awaodori.jp/

Otsuka Awa Odori 東京大塚阿波おどり (Toshima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Otsuka Station, South Exit (Yamanote Line), Shin-Otsuka Station (Marunouchi Line).
・About: For the festival eve the night before on Aug. 24 at 5:00 pm, dances will be performed in the Minami Otsuka Hall. This is one of the samller and less crowded Awa Odori in Tokyo. Probably because it is held at the same time as much bigger Awa Odori.
・Video: https://youtu.be/4nbHIEBr2IA
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=764
・Official website: http://ohtsuka-awaodori.com/

–SEPTEMBER 2018 (9月)–

Inagi Awa Odori 稲城阿波おどり大会 (Inagi, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keio Yomiuriland Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance venues are in front of the train station and nearby streets. Not crowded at all.
・Video: https://youtu.be/_7Snv0SCuVU
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=702
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/inagiawaodori/

Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 北浦和阿波おどり (Saitama city, Saitama)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kita-Urawa Station (JR Keihin-Tohoku Line).
・About: This is the finale of the local Urawa Matsuri festival held since July. A music parade first starts at 4 pm before the Awa Odori at 5 pm. About 16 troupes appear.
・Video: https://youtu.be/hixFsWqpa9E
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=767
・Official website: http://www.kitaurawa.or.jp/

Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 中村橋阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 2, 2018, 5:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Nakamurabashi Station (Seibu-Ikebukuro Line).
・About: Held annually on the first weekend of Sept. There will be 12 dance troupes and 600 people in the parade. On the festival eve on Sat. the day before, they will have entertainment and flea market from 2:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
・Video: https://youtu.be/woBn4SoSsmk
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=768
・Official website: http://nyanpy.com/

Hatsudai Awa Odori 初台阿波踊り (Hatsudai, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Held annually on Sept. 22–23, starts at 6:45 pm and ends at around 9:00 pm.
・Where: Near Hatsudai Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance route is about 1 km long, starting near Hatsudai Station. One long route. Started in 1970 to join the Yoyogi Hachimangu Shrine’s main festival and revitalize the shopping street. Local troupes include Hatsuda-ren, Chibikko-ren, Fuji-ren, Yiko-ren, and Koburyu-ren.
・Video:
・Photos: http://hatsudai.ne.jp/awaodori/photo/index.html
・Official website: http://hatsudai.ne.jp/awaodori/
https://www.facebook.com/hatsudaiawaodori

–OCTOBER 2018 (10月)–

Kawasaki Awa Odori かわさき阿波おどり (Kawasaki, Kanagawa)
・When: Oct. 6, 2018, 4:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keikyu Kawasaki Station (Keihin Kyuko) and JR Kawasaki Station (JR Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido Lines).
・About: Started in 1986. About 15 troupes (over 600 performers) will dance.
・Video:
・Photos: http://www.kawasaki-awaodori.com/memory.html
・Official website: http://www.kawasaki-awaodori.com/

Misato Awa Odori (Japan Festa Autumn) みさと阿波おどり (Misato, Saitama)
・When: Oct. 28, 2018, 10:00 am–3:00 pm
・Where: Misato Park (From JR Kanamachi Station on the JR Joban Line, take the bus bound for Misato Station or Misato Chuo Station and get off at Takasu-chiku Bunka Center Iriguchi. Or from Misato Station on the JR Musashino Line or Misato Chuo Station on the Tsukuba Express Line, take a bus bound for Kanamachi Station Minami-guchi and get off at Misato Koen-mae.)
・About: Festival featuring not only awa odori, but also taiko drummers. Misato Park is on the border with Katsushika Ward’s Mizumoto Park in Tokyo.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.geocities.jp/satoplco/awa/awa.htm

–AWA ODORI ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY (Illustrated)–

Awa Odori (阿波おどり)

Awa Odori (阿波おどり or 阿波踊り) – Dance of Awa Province. “Awa” is the old name for present-day Tokushima Prefecture where the dance originated. “Awa” does not mean “bubble” (泡) in this case. “Odori” means “dance.” It is based on the bon dance to welcome returning spirits of the deceased.

ren (連)

ren (連) – Awa Odori dance troupe. The troupe’s name is tagged with “ren” at the end. A few troupes use a different tag instead of “ren.” A troupe consists of child, male, and female dancers and musicians. At the head is a pole lantern bearing the name of the troupe. “Jimoto-ren” (地元連) is a troupe from the place where the Awa Odori is held. And “shotai-ren” (招待連) are invited troupes.

Niwaka-ren (にわか連) – Dance troupe for anyone to freely join in and dance (tobi-iri sanka). No special costume required. Easy to spot since they wear no uniform and look disorganized. Some Awa Odori festivals have a Niwaka-ren. Or sometimes at the end, anyone can join in with the dance troupe.

embujo (演舞場)

embujo (演舞場) – Dance venue where the troupes dance for spectators. This is usually a section of a street or large avenue. There may be bleachers or just a sidewalk where people can sit and watch. The bleachers are for paid seating. The venue may also be called “kaijo” (会場) which is a generic term for venue and may be numbered.

Nagashi-odori (dance parade)

nagashi-odori (流し踊り) – Dancers dance while moving down the road in a parade.

kumi-odori (組踊り)

kumi-odori (組踊り) – Instead of moving in a parade, the dancers perform in one location for a prolonged period around 15-20 min. It could be a special area along the parade route or a stage. Often performed as the final number.

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り) – Men’s dance where they crouch low with the knees pointed outward. They usually wear a happi coat, shorts, and tabi socks. They may also dance with an uchiwa fan or paper lantern. Children and women can also dance the men’s dance. In the troupe, otoko odori usually appears before the onna odori.

onna odori (女踊り)

onna odori (女踊り) – Women’s dance. They wear a yukata, crescent-shaped hat, and wooden geta clogs. They dance in various formations while hopping on their clogs. Elegant-looking and the troupe’s main members.

aho (阿保)

aho (阿保) – Fool. Awa Odori dancers shake their hands above their heads. This is happens to be the Japanese gesture to indicate one’s idiocy. So it is nicknamed the “fool’s dance.”

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー)

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー) – “Yatto-sa, yatto-yatto, yoisa, yatto-sa!” A dance cheer often shouted by dancers. It means, “Long time no see! How have you been?” This is not normal Japanese.

yakko odori (やっこ踊り)

yakko odori (やっこ踊り) – Kite dance with an acrobatic dancer miming as a kite controlled by a kite handler with an invisible string. Humorous and dramatic especially when the kite does cartwheels and somersaults. Only a few troupes perform the kite dance.

kane (鉦)

fue (笛)

shamisen (三味線)

taiko (太鼓)

narimono (鳴り物) – Musicians. They appear at the end of the dance troupe and consist of flute players (fue 笛), shamisen players (三味線), bell player (kane 鉦) who sets the rhythm, and taiko drummers at the end.

Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo

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Happy Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan’s massive costume street gathering on Oct. 31, 2016. Saw it for the first time from about 9 pm to 10:30 pm. Costumers and cosplayers of all kinds gathered in Shibuya for three nights in a row since Sat. night on the 29th. Last night was the largest gathering despite Halloween falling on a weekday this year.

Japan is the world’s undisputed Cosplay Super Power. Where the word “cosplay” was invented in the 1990s. Combine that with the “kawaii culture” and you create a street photographer’s paradise.

News reports this year have indicated that Halloween in Japan is fast becoming a major seasonal/commercial event, on par with Valentine’s Day (when Japanese chocolate makers make most of their annual sales). Halloween merchandise has been taking off in Japan.

Good, clean fun for everyone. There must’ve been at least 200,000 people at least. The entire Hachiko (dog) plaza was full of people. Ironically, nobody said “trick or treat” and I didn’t see anyone giving out Halloween candy. (No one carried candy bags either.) Japan invents its own Halloween (and Valentine’s Day).

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For the first time this year, the police wisely closed off a few major roads around Shibuya Station for Halloween. Even then, the road to 109 and Dogenzaka were filled with people. I can’t imagine how crowded the sidewalks must’ve been until last year when they didn’t do this.

I’m really glad that the police are being very cooperative by closing the roads to traffic. Usually, the police kill off such street culture events due to snarled traffic and complaints about the noise, etc. People in Akihabara still cannot stage street performances when the roads are closed to traffic (hokoten) on weekends. But Shibuya is very welcoming of these costumers. Hopefully, they didn’t litter the streets as much as before.

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The main attraction for these costumers is that they meet other costumers and take photos together. Great way to meet people (and ask for phone numbers).

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Halloween in Shibuya is now a major tourist attraction in Tokyo. Lots of tourists posed with willing costumers. Nothing like this happens on Valentine’s Day nor Christmas. I have no doubt that this event will start attracting major celebrities. Think Lady Gaga, etc. Gonna get even more crazy.

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You see all these weird costume collaborations. Captain America and China girls. They just get together spontaneously.

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This all-night Halloween event is becoming Tokyo’s rare venue for a vibrant youth street culture. We should have more street events like this. I haven’t seen such a massive street event in Japan in a long time. There’s no organizer, no sponsors, no set event time, but it still happens. Just a spontaneous, massive street gathering. Unbelievable.

More photos here.

Asakusa Samba Carnival 2016 photos

With the Rio Olympics in 2016, I thought seeing Asakusa Samba this year was a good idea. It was a cool day as well, not the usual summer heat. It did rain a bit, but I’ll take the cool over a hot summer sun any day. Photos shot on Aug. 27, 2016, 1 pm to 6 pm in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.

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Horse-themed Robot Restaurant girls at Asakusa Samba 2016.

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Yuka-chan, A.B.S.UNIDOS DO URBANA based in Nagoya.

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Truly bizarre costume.

Truly bizarre costume.

Onsen (hot spring) themed float.

Onsen (hot spring) themed float.

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She's definitely some kind of athlete.

She’s definitely some kind of athlete.

More Asakusa Samba 2016 photos here.

Tokyo’s best cherry blossom spots

Happy spring! Here’s an illustrated list of Tokyo’s best cherry blossoms (sakura). To see more photos of each spot, click on the photo or name of the site.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park & Shinobazu Pond (上野公園・不忍池)
One of Tokyo’s biggest outdoor hanami parties are held in Ueno. The best spots are reserved hours in advance with tarps. Cherries are also lit up at night. If you want to know what hanami is like, come to Ueno. Lots of museums too. To escape the madness of Ueno Park, go to the adjacent Shinobazu Pond, picturesque for a stroll through the sakura. Near Ueno Station.

Chidorigafuchi

Chidorigafuchi

Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵)
Cherry blossoms along the huge moat of the Imperial Palace (former Edo Castle) makes this one of Tokyo’s most photogenic spots. There is a pleasant path to walk through the cherries as well as rowboats on the moat. Be prepared for the crowds. Also beautiful at night. Near Kudanshita Station (Tozai Line).

 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑)
After Ueno Park, this huge garden-park is massively popular for hanami picnics. Unlike Ueno Park, there’s lots of open, grassy space and room for picnickers. Garden itself is great to walk around too. Near Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station on the Marunouchi Line.

Sumida Park

Sumida Park

Sumida Park (隅田公園)
Riverside park near Asakusa is lined with many cherry trees on both sides of Sumida River. Mainly for people to stroll under the trees. The main draw for photographers is the cherry blossoms with Tokyo Skytree in the background. Flowers and Skytree both lit up at night too. Near Asakusa Station.

 Toshi Nogyo Koen Park

Toshi Nogyo Koen Park

Toshi Nogyo Koen Park (都市農業公園の五色桜)
If you’re American, definitely check out this park. This is where the famous cherry trees in Washington, DC came from in 1912. This park is in the Kohoku Village area famous for colorful varieties of cherry blossoms. Literally called “goshiki” or five colors. Sadly, they all died, so saplings from the Washington, DC cherry trees were brought over here and replanted here 30 years ago. These trees are called “homecoming trees” (里帰りの桜). You can see descendants of Washington, DC cherry trees thriving here. They must be happy to be in the land of their ancestors. Adachi Ward also has a “Reagan Sakura” tree planted at Toneri Park from a sapling presented by Nancy Reagan in 1981. From Nishi-Arai Station on Tobu Railway, take a bus for Toshi Nogyo Koen Park. Takes about 20-30 min.

Zojoji

Zojoji

Zojoji Temple (増上寺)
If you like temples and samurai, this is the place. Zojoji was the official temple of the Tokugawa shoguns. You can see the tombs of some of the shoguns and their wives and children. Tokyo Tower is also in the background. Neighboring Shiba Park also has fine views of Tokyo Tower and cherry blossoms. Near Onarimon Station on the Mita subway line, Daimon Station on the Toei Oedo and Asakusa subway lines, and JR Hamamatsu-cho Station.

Inokashira Park

Inokashira Park

Inokashira Park (井の頭公園)
Inokashira Park has always been a local favorite. The highlight is renting a rowboat on the sakura-fringed pond. There’s hardly any grass to sit on, so bring a picnic mat. There’s also a zoo with Hanako, Japan’s oldest elephant. Near Kichijoji Station.

 Koganei Park

Koganei Park

Koganei Park (小金井公園)
I would call this the biggest and most impressive sakura spot in western Tokyo. When in full bloom, the trees are just fantastic. Within the park is the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum, an outdoor museum of architecture of 27 reconstructed buildings originally from the Edo Period and up to the 1930s. Near Musashi-Koganei Station on the Chuo Line.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社)
If you go to Chidorigafuchi, you might as well see Yasukuni Shrine across the street. The blooming of one sakura tree there serves as Tokyo’s barometer for the weather bureau to officially declare that cherry blossoms have started blooming in Tokyo. Near Kudanshita Station on the Tozai Line.

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden’s weeping cherry.

Rikugien Garden (六義園)
Rikugien is one of two of Edo’s famous gardens (other is Koishikawa Korakuen). It has a beautiful weeping cherry tree. Expect a line at the entrance when the tree is in bloom. Also lit up at night. Near Komagome Station on the Yamanote Line.

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden (小石川後楽園)
Koishikawa Korakuen is another famous Edo-Period Japanese garden. Originally built by Lord Yorifusa of the Mito Tokugawa Clan in 1629 as part of his Edo estate. The garden was completed under Lord Mitsukuni, the second lord of the Mito clan. Famous for weeping cherry trees and other flowers. Near Iiidabashi Station and Korakuen Station.

Harimazaka

Harimazaka

Harimazaka (播磨坂桜並木)
Harimazaka road, named after Lord Matsudaira Harima who had his main residence here during the Edo Period, is lined with 127 cherry blossom trees for about 460 meters along a wide, central median. The cherry trees were planted in 1960. A few outdoor sculptures complement the trees. On weekends, the road is closed to traffic so we can enjoy the blossoms more. Near Myogadani Station on the Marunouchi Line.

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery (谷中霊園)
Most of Tokyo’s major cemeteries have cherry blossoms. Yanaka has a lot of them. They also allow hanami picnics. Interesting contrast with gravestones. Then again, it might make the departed souls happy to be in their midst. The cemetery is noted for graves of famous people like actor Hisaya Morishige, Eiichi Shibusawa, Yokozuna Dewanoumi, artist Taikan Yokoyama, and the last Tokugawa shogun Yoshinobu, but they are off limits to the public. Tennoji temple is also nice to visit. Near JR Nippori Station.

 Meguro River

Meguro River

Meguro River (目黒川桜まつり)
Very crowded in the evening when the cherry blossoms are lit up. No picnicking allowed. Just stroll and look. However, the roads are narrow and passing cars are a nuisance. Near Naka-Meguro Station (Hibiya Line).

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園)
Another park popular for hanami. Smaller than Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. There is more open space than cherry trees, so many people picnic under the sky instead of a cherry tree. Very long lines for restrooms, especially for ladies. Near Yoyogi-Koen Station on the Chiyoda Line.

Sotobori Canal

Sotobori Canal

Sotobori Canal (外濠)
Ride the Chuo Line or Sobu Line in central Tokyo and you will see the cherry blossoms along the parallel moat. Formerly a moat of Edo Castle, this canal stretching from Iidabashi Station to Ichigaya Station along the Chuo Line. For train fans who like to shoot trains and cherry blossoms.

Other notable spots:

Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園) – Minato Ward, Near Gaienmae Station (Ginza/Hanzomon Line) and Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda Line).

Asukayama Park (飛鳥山公園) – Kita Ward, Near Oji Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Fuchu Sakura Matsuri (府中市民桜まつり) – Fuchu, Near Fuchu Station on the Keio Line from Shinjuku.

Kunitachi Daigaku-dori (国立大学通り〜さくら通り) – Near JR Kunitachi Station.

Nakano-dori – Nakano Ward, Near Nakano Station.

Senzoku-ike Pond (洗足池) – Ota Ward, Near Senzoku-Ike Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line.

Showa Kinen Park (昭和記念公園) – Tachikawa, near JR Nishi-Tachikawa Station.

Shakujii Park (石神井公園) – Nerima-ku, Near Shakujii-Koen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.

Tama Cemetery (多摩霊園) – Fuchu, Near Tama Station on the Seibu Tamagawa Line or a 2-minute walk from Reien Omotemon bus stop via Keio Bus from JR Musashi-koganei Station.

Shakujii River Cherry Blossoms (石神井川の桜並木) – Itabashi-ku, near Shin-Itabashi Station on the Mita subway line.

Tokyo Marathon 2016 photos

A record 36,000+ runners at the 10th Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 28, 2016. This was near the 30 km checkpoint near Asakusabashi Station. They still had 10 km left to go

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Black Kumamon (very unusual).

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Beautiful sunny day and not that cold.

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Belly dancer?

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Someone’s dad going for it.

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Lum-chan.

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Tomato runner named Tsuyoshi.

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Elegant

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Taiwanese runner in some kind of ethnic costume with bells.

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Most of the spectators knew someone in the marathon.

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American crab.

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Daikon

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Ghostbusters (not a protractor)

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Beko bull (bobbing head) from Fukushima.

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The Buddha. I didn’t see Jesus Christ (carrying a large cross on his back) this year. Maybe this Buddha took his place.

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Friendly Buddha

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Taiyaki

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Carrying katsuo (bonito). Fake of course.

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Red and white are auspicious colors in Japan.

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Kawaii

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General MacArthur with “Bushido” (Way of the Warrior).

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This runner had leg cramps and a bystander gave him a massage.

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T-Rex from Taiwan.

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Very fit grandparents running together.

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Her note thanks all the marathon staff and spectators for their support.

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This is how I felt after the marathon.

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Buses standby at the 30 km checkpoint for those who couldn’t make it in time.

More photos here…

Asakusa Geisha Ozashiki Odori Dance

Video link: https://youtu.be/xgtYl0AtDbE

Asakusa geisha gave free performances for tourists at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center on Saturdays from mid-Oct. to late Nov. 2015. The show I saw in this video featured 92-year-old Yuko, Tokyo’s oldest geisha still going strong. Two shows on each Saturday at 1 pm and 2:30 pm. Free tickets are distributed on the day of the performance in the lobby of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center from 10 am. They perform in spring and autumn.

AsakusaGeisha-ozashikiodori2015e

Sawara no Taisai Autumn Festival 2015

Video link: https://youtu.be/zf-cqFHQre8

Sawara no Taisai Autumn Festival (佐原の大祭秋祭り) is a festival of ornate floats paraded around Sawara (Katori), Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Oct. 10, 2015. Floats (called dashi) are about 7 meters high and weigh 3 to 4 tons. They have intricate wood carvings and a large doll depicting a historical or legendary Japanese figure. Each float is from a neighborhood in Sawara. Most of the floats and dolls were made in the late 19th century or early 20th century.

Dating back 300 years, the festival is held for three days in July (10 floats) and Oct. (14 floats). This year, they did not follow a set parade route. The float pullers also dance and the main highlight is when they turn the float a few times. The festival is a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. Held near JR Sawara Station (JR Narita Line) and along Ono River’s traditional townscape.

Sawara is noted for its traditional townscape along the river so it’s worth visiting even without the festival.

Koenji Awa Odori 2015

Video link: https://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I

Saw the magnificent Koenji Awa Odori dance festival on Sat. Aug. 29, 2015 from 5 pm to 8 pm in Koenji, Tokyo, Japan.

Koenji Awa Odori is a huge street dance festival held annually on the last weekend of Aug. near Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi Line) in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

About 5,000 performers in about 80 dance troupes called “ren” performed on Sat. and Sun. evenings from 5 pm to 8 pm. This video shows 40 troupes on Sat. evening. Most troupes are based in Tokyo including a good number from Koenji. A few are from Tokushima where Awa Odori originated.

登場する40連(みなみ演舞場にて): 山形んだず連、しのぶ連、杉並区役所さざんか連、南相馬連、葵新連、弁慶連、心美連、­朱雀連、晃妙連、舞蝶連、ひょっとこ連、楓連、志留波阿連、美踊連、第三企画連・殿様­連、写楽連、苔作連、江戸歌舞伎連、だむだん連、のびゆく連、華純連、和楽連、江戸浮­連、初台連、東京天水連、高円寺 誠連、美遊ひよこ連、花道連、むさし葵連、騒連中、つくし連、目黒銀座連、天翔連、い­ろは連、三茶連、花菱連、東京えびす連、粋輦、りずむ連、天狗連・平和連

Shortcut links to troupes appearing in this video (*Koenji Awa Odori Association members. **Troupes from Tokushima.):
Yamagata Undazu-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=4m00s
Shinobu-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=5m15s
Suginami City Hall Sazanka-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=6m31s
Minami Soma-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=8m7s
Aoi Shin-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=8m20s
Benkei-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=11m32s
Shinbi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=13m03s
Suzaku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=14m1s
Komyo-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=15m53s
Maicho-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=17m59s
Hyottoko-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=21m53s
Kaede-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=24m44s
Silver-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=27m16s
Midori-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=29m57s
Daisan Kikaku-ren & Tonosama-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=31m51s
Sharaku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=35m49s
Kokesaku-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=40m0s
Edo Kabuki-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=41m57s
Damudan-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=44m54s
Nobiyuku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=46m43s
Kasumi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=48m15s
Waraku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=51m17s
Edo Uki-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=52m56s
Hatsudai-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=54m3s
Tokyo Tensui-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=55m54s
Koenji Makoto-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=58m49s
Miyu Hiyoko-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h2m12s
Hanamichi-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h5m10s
Musashi Aoi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h6m34s
Zomeki-renchu*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h7m15s
Tsukushi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h8m14s
Meguro Ginza-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h10m38s
Tensho-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h12m2s
Iroha-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h13m46s
Sancha-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h16m20s
Hanabishi-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h18m38s
Tokyo Ebisu-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h20m53s
Sui-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h21m59s
Rhythm-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h23m49s
Tengu-ren* & Heiwa-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h25m58s

 

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