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Crowd at JR Koenji Station on Awa Odori night.
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The Koenji Awa Odori is basically a parade of dancers. Each dance troupe starts with a lantern bearer showing the name of the troupe.Many groups of dancers from various parts of Japan participate in the parade that follows the main shopping streets near Koenji Station on the Japan Railways Chuo Line in Tokyo. The dance is quite simple. While bobbing up and down, the dancer holds her hands above the head and shakes the fingers. This hand gesture indicates that the person has gone crazy. It is therefore nicknamed the "fool's dance." The dance is held on the last weekend in August.

The Awa Odori originated 400 years ago in Tokushima Prefecture (in Shikoku) where it is one of Japan's most famous festivals. Although it is not as large as the one in Tokushima, the Koenji Awa Odori in Tokyo has become a major summer festival in Tokyo.
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The troupe can consist of children (as young as age 2 or 3), women, and men.
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The Koenji Awa Odori has become a major summer festival in Tokyo. It had a humble beginning in 1957 when it was originally called the Koenji Baka Odori. "Baka" means fool.
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One trademark of the dancers is the crescent-shaped straw hats.
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The men look more like the "fools."
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The parade route centers on JR Koenji Station. There are wide and narrow portions of the route.If it rains, they may stop the festival early.
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It is most crowded along the large avenues. The crowd is several rows deep. Those in the front are expected to sit down.
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The dancers hop on one leg.So what is Tokushima's Awa Odori doing in Koenji, Tokyo? It was first organized by a youth group of Koenji's retail merchants in 1957. They wanted to hold an event to attract more shoppers to the area. Neighboring town Asagaya had already started the Tanabata Festival in 1954. The Tanabata Matsuri, of course, is from up north in Sendai, Miyagi Pref. So the Koenji folks decided to transplant a southern festival to Koenji. That was the Awa Odori.

There are now about 30 to 40 Awa Odori parades held in Tokyo alone, usually in shopping areas. The one in Koenji is the largest in Tokyo.
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The first Koenji Awa Odori in 1957 had only 57 dancers and about 2,000 spectators. Iroha-ren いろは連Iroha-ren

いろは連
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These days, they have 10,000 dancers from 70 dance groups and over 1 million spectators. Also see the video at YouTube.いろは連
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Each dance troupe is called a "ren." This is the Suiko-ren. 吹鼓連
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The dance troupe typically has subgroups of children, women, men, and musicians. Suiko-ren 吹鼓連吹鼓連
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The dancers wear a light kimono and half-moon straw hats.
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Musicians always bring up the rear of the dance troupe. Taiko drums, flutes, and shamisen. The Awa Odori has a distinct rhythm and beat. It really makes you want to get up and dance.
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The dancers also let out a yell as they dance. Hana-no-ki-ren 花の木連
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Other dancers might also wear a simpler outfit of short pants and happi coat. Swinging around a fan is also common.花の木連
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These pictures show over 40 dance troupes which I photographed in 2004 and 2005. Budo-ren 富道連富道連
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Budo-ren 富道連富道連
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The dance troupes come from in and out of town. A few from Tokushima as well as Kanagawa, Chiba, Shizuoka, and other prefectures. Edokko-ren 江戸っ子連
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Tokushima and Tokyo have the most number of Awa Odori troupes with 40 to 50 each.Edokko-ren 江戸っ子連
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Edokko-ren 江戸っ子連
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Kokesaku-ren 苔作連
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Kokesaku-ren 苔作連
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Kimagu-ren きまぐ連
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Kimagu-ren きまぐ連
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美遊ひよこ連
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美遊ひよこ連
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美遊ひよこ連
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美遊ひよこ連
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Bikkuri-ren びっくり連
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Midori-ren 美踊連
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Midori-ren 美踊連
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Midori-ren 美踊連
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F.I.A.-ren えふあいえい連
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F.I.A.-ren えふあいえい連
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Sometimes you see a gaijin participant. F.I.A.-ren えふあいえい連
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Mitaka-ren みたか連
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Mitaka-ren みたか連
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Mitaka-ren みたか連
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Kikusui-ren 菊水会菊水連
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Kikusui-ren 菊水会菊水連
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Kikusui-ren 菊水会菊水連
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Kikusui-ren 菊水会菊水連
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きたまちじゃじゃ馬連
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きたまちじゃじゃ馬連
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Many of the troupe names have pretty meanings such as Maicho-ren which means "Dancing Butterfly." 舞蝶連
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Maicho-ren 舞蝶連
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Maicho-ren 舞蝶連
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Maicho-ren 舞蝶連
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Maicho-ren 舞蝶連
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Goraku-ren 伍楽連
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Goraku-ren 伍楽連
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A few troupes are company-sponsored and take on the company's name like this one, a construction company.There is even the Microsoft-ren. (Not pictured here.)
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Sharaku-ren 写楽連
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Sharaku-ren 写楽連
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Sharaku-ren 写楽連
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Sharaku-ren 写楽連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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The Aoi Shin-ren is from Koenji and one of the largest Awa Odori troupes. They are great performers and one of my favorites.
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Also see the video at YouTube.
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Koenji Awa Odori, Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Koenji Awa Odori, Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Aoi Shin-ren 葵新連
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Ageo Koiki-ren (from Saitama) あげお小粋連
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Musashi Minami-ren むさし南連
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Musashi Minami-ren むさし南連
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Musashi Minami-ren むさし南連
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Musashi Minami-ren むさし南連
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Silver-ren 志留波阿連
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Silver-ren 志留波阿連
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Silver-ren 志留波阿連
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Yurikamome-ren ゆりかもめ連
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Suzaku-ren 朱雀連
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Suzaku-ren 朱雀連
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天翔連
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天翔連
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天翔連
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天翔連
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天翔連
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天翔連
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Damudan-ren だむだん連
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Damudan-ren だむだん連
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Damudan-ren だむだん連
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Damudan-ren だむだん連
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Tokyo Aoi-ren 東京葵連
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Tokyo Aoi-ren 東京葵連
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Tokyo Aoi-ren 東京葵連
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Tokyo Aoi-ren 東京葵連
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Tokyo Aoi-ren 東京葵連
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Tatsuno Otoshiko-ren たつのおとし子連
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Tatsuno Otoshiko-ren たつのおとし子連
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Tensui-ren 天水連
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Taiko drummers jamming. Tensui-ren 天水連
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Koganei Sakura-ren 小金井さくら連
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Koganei Sakura-ren 小金井さくら連
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Koganei is a city in Tokyo with a park famous for sakura cherry blossoms. Koganei Sakura-ren 小金井さくら連
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Shamisen player who knows how to smile for my camera. Koganei Sakura-ren 小金井さくら連
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騒連中
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騒連中
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Asuka-ren 飛鳥連
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Asuka-ren 飛鳥連
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Asuka-ren 飛鳥連
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Hanamichi-ren 花道連
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Hanamichi-ren 花道連
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Hanamichi-ren 花道連
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Hanamichi-ren 花道連
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Hanamichi-ren 花道連
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粋輦連
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粋輦連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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Shinobu-ren しのぶ連
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成増チルド連
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成増チルド連
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Edo Kabuki-ren 江戸歌舞伎連
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Edo Kabuki-ren 江戸歌舞伎連
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Edo Kabuki-ren 江戸歌舞伎連
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From the Suginami Ward Office, Sazanka-ren 杉並区役所さざんか連
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Sazanka-ren 杉並区役所さざんか連
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Sazanka-ren 杉並区役所さざんか連
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Sazanka-ren 杉並区役所さざんか連
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Hyottoko-ren ひょっとこ連
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Hyottoko-ren ひょっとこ連
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Hyottoko-ren ひょっとこ連
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Tengu-ren 天狗連
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Tengu-ren 天狗連
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Tengu-ren 天狗連
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After it's over...
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Koenji has many shopping arcades and side streets teeming with eateries.
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JR Koenji Station and Awa Odori sign.
     
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