The Koenji district in the west of Tokyo is known for used-clothing stores and record shops — the perfect spot for any music lover to settle down in.
Once a year, it becomes a hub for traditional culture when it hosts the Koenji Awaodori Festival. It is the second largest of its kind in Japan, the largest being held in Tokushima.
The "Awa" refers to a feudal administration in Tokushima Prefecture in the 16th century. Back then, to celebrate the opening of Tokushima Castle, the local daimyo (feudal lord) hosted a large party. Drunken revellers stumbled around and this is believed to have been the origin of the dance.
Koenji's version of the celebration consists of an average of 188 groups comprising nearly 12,000 dancers in total. While it is smaller than Tokushima's (which reportedly draws 1.3 million people), it is less formal and allows for spectators to get up close to the performers. However, get there early in order to get a prime view.
Another interesting aspect of the event is that performers will spring up in back alleys, side streets and even shop entrances. So make sure to explore the neighborhood as much as possible.
The Koenji Awaodori Festival takes place in Koenji, Tokyo, on Aug. 27 and 28. Dancing will begin at 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.koenji-awaodori.com.