On an average year in Koenji, a neighborhood on the west side of Tokyo known for its bohemian vibes, late August sees dozens of dance troupes flood the streets as they pound taiko drums, wave their arms and parade down the town’s main concourses in a two-day frenzy.
Based on a centuries-old summer festival from Tokushima Prefecture, this matsuri is known as the Koenji Awa Odori, and the commotion draws about 1 million visitors, making it one of the capital’s largest summer festivals.
On an average year, that is. Of course, the years between 2020 and 2022 were anything but average. Starting in 2020, the Koenji Awa Odori was canceled for three summers in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the first full-scale cancellations in the festival’s history, which dates back to 1957. Now, the first Koenji Awa Odori since 2019 is set to take place this weekend.