What better way to revel in the warm season than dancing your way through Tokyo's most popular summer festivals? This weekend (Aug 23-25) in particular sees some of Tokyo's largest dance soirees. These festivals are a perfect chance to partake in traditional Japanese dances, including the Bon Odori (a style of communal dance during the Obon holiday to honour spirits and ancestors) and the Awa Odori, where large troupes of choreographed dancers and musicians will be making their way through the streets in a parade-like manner. If you're ready to learn or show-off these moves, you'll want to mark these six weekend festivals on your calendar. Have fun!
Harajuku-Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi (Aug 24-25)
The yosakoi dance originated in Kochi during the 1950s where it was introduced to help stimulate the struggling post-war economy, however the festival has grown into a celebration that is still popular to this day. Tokyo's very own Super Yosakoi sees more than 100-odd teams of brightly dressed dancers trying to outdo each other as they strut their stuff to the rhythm of the naruko – a type of clapper that the people of Kochi originally used to scare birds away from their fields. The dance moves through the main streets of Harajuku and Omotesando, so if you're in the area it won't be hard to miss.
Koenji Awa-Odori (Aug 24-25)
No doubt one of Tokyo's largest summer festivals, the Koenji Awa-Odori has been celebrated since 1957 and sees approximately 10,000 dancers parade their way through the streets with precise choreographed moves. The dancers are also accompanied by musicians playing intense beats getting the crowds energised as they move through the neighbourhood. The festivities start at 5pm, but if you want a good spot to catch all the action, best head over a bit earlier.
Minami Koshigaya Awa Odori (Aug 23-25)
The Minima Koshigaya Awa Odori is another well-known Awa dance festival in Tokyo, and is held around Minami Koshigaya Station. Just as lively as the Koenji fest, the Minami Koshigaya version usually attracts around 750,000 spectators each year, so expect large crowds. A highlight of this particular festival is the full-fledged dance performances by each Awa dance troupe. The dancers make their way through the streets for the usual parade, but for this festival they'll also be performing on a main stage.
Roppongi Hills Bon Odori (Aug 23-25)
If you're in Roppongi, you'll want to join in on the annual Bon Odori, which takes place at Roppongi Hills. The main dance area is centered around a specially-built stage, where you can easily follow the dance moves of the yukata-clad dancers leading the way. This is the perfect chance to get all dressed up in a summer yukata, so make the most of the festival and join in with your best dance moves.
Matsuri Japan (Aug 22-23)
If you're running short on time, or just don't have a chance to catch all the different Japanese summer festivals, this is the perfect event for you. Showcasing the country's diverse cultures, Matsuri Japan gathers some of Japan's top regional events and festivities all in one convenient location. Get ready to dance, dance, dance.
Hibiya Park Ondo Obon Dance Tournament (Aug 23-24)
This bon odori may not be as traditional as the others you'll find this summer, but it is the largest in the Marunouchi area and attracts a diverse mix of locals and tourists joining in the fun. Don't forget to catch the procession dancing to the ‘Tokyo Ondo’ song – join in if you're feeling up for it. After all the dancing, you can fill up on festival grub at the surrounding snack and street food stalls.
Even when the dancers have all packed up for the night, there are still lots to do in Tokyo at night. Get yourself to one of Tokyo's best bars for craft beer or cocktails. Don't drink? Not to worry; there are many other things you can do in the city without hitting the bars and clubs.
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