awa odori 1

There are many different reasons to visit Japan, but something that should be on everyone’s bucket list are the matsuri, or festivals. Summer is a big time for festivals, especially in August when the Obon festival is held, during which many people travel back to their hometowns in order to honor their family and ancestors. With so many families together in their hometowns, it is the perfect time for a matsuri full of songs, dancing, and long-standing traditions.

One of the biggest Obon celebrtions in all of Japan is the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima Prefecture, which over a million people attend each year. The dancers who are dressed in their traditional clothing and musicians that pound out the beat in tune with your heart are truly a sight to behold, but if you can’t experience the traditional festival in Japan, why not try to bring it to your country as one French journalist did?

On October 2, the very first Awa Odori Festival was held on foreign soil as French journalist Regis Arnaud fulfilled his dream of bringing the festival to Paris. He had first encountered the festival in 2005 in Tokyo as residents who had relocated from Tokushima had brought it to the city many years ago. He fell in love with the energy and beauty of the performers dancing and playing their hearts out in front of him. From that moment he began planning to bring the festival to France, which was a long and meticulous process. After 10 years of hard work, he was finally able to make his dream a reality this year.

▼ Awa Odori in Japan!

▼ Awa Odori in Paris!

Dancers and musicians from both Tokushima and Tokyo came to Paris and performed the Awa dance for the French people. Since it was the first time many Parisians had seen the festival, they found it slightly intimidating to jump in and participate. However, this didn’t prove to be too much of a barrier as the dancers taught the movements to festival goers and they all came together to enjoy it. That is the best thing about these kinds of dances: it might look difficult, but it’s still really fun to do.

▼ Even the mascot of Tokushima came to participate. Bienvenu à Paris, Tokushi!

▼ Everyone joins in the dance together!

Regis originally wanted the festival to run in May, however due to safety concerns after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, the festival was moved to later in the year. The Japanese chairman of the festival said that the response was very good in Paris, stating, “No matter where you go, dancing resounds in peoples’ hearts.” Regis hopes to make this an annual tradition and wants to bring 300 dancers from Japan next year to spread the festival to even more parts of France. While the participants may speak two totally different languages, they can communicate through dance, the universally understood language of getting down and boogieing.

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Awa Odori Paris