Shikoku has several traditional festivals, but none is as renowned as the Awa Dance (Awa Odori) Festival in Tokushima city which attracts some 1.3 million tourists each year from all over Japan and overseas. The largest such event in the country is held in the summer as part of the Obon festival, a Buddhist custom to honour the spirits of one’s ancestors. This year’s event takes place from August 12 to 15. Awa dance is one of Japan’s representative traditional performances practised in Tokushima and elsewhere in the country. Also known as “drunken dance” or “the fool’s dance”, it is characterised by the rather unusual movements of the dancers, who stumble back and forth on their toes, accompanied by loud music played on common Japanese musical instruments such as the taiko drum, shamisen lute, shinobue flute and kane bell. The dancers usually bend their knees and keep their bodies low. There are women’s dance (onna odori) and men’s dance (otoko odori). In women’s dance, the dancers wave their hands above their heads at all times, while the men’s dance is characterised by lively and dynamic movements. Awa dance is performed by groups of dancers and musicians called ren. Different groups have different coloured costumes and flags. Women wear robes called yukata, while men wear a short yukata, called happi, over their trousers. There are both professional and amateur groups formed by office workers and students. The dance is believed to have a history of over 400 years, but its origins are relatively unknown. One suggestion is that the dance originated from the celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle in 1587, when the Lord of Hachisuka offered rice wine to the locals who got drunk and danced freely to celebrate. Another suggestion is that the dance, which is performed by different groups, was influenced by the Furyu dance hosted by Sogo Nagayasu (or Masayasu) at the Shozui Castle in 1578. There is also another theory that the dance is actually a local variety of Bon Odori (a dance by the Buddhists) performed throughout Japan in summer during the Obon festival. Today, the Awa Dance Festival in Tokushima is a mega event held at locations throughout the city. Groups of dancers, wearing costumes, chant and sing as they parade through the streets in designated areas and on stages (with spectator stands either free or paid). Food and game stands are also available. For some large stages, tickets can be bought in advance at convenience stores nationwide, or at the tourist information centre near Tokushima’s railway station on the day of the performance. Those who cannot make the trip to Tokushima during the festival can watch the dance at the city’s Awa Dance Museum (Awa Odori Kaikan) throughout the year. There are performances several times a day by a professional dance group, and guests also have the opportunity to join the dancing.