Awa odori is part of the Bon festivities, which are held to welcome one's
ancestors back to this world for a few days. Though Bon dances are usually performed in
a circle, Awa odori participants march in a straight line. They march through the
streets in unison to music performed on the shamisen, flute, drums, and bells singing Odoru aho ni miru aho; onaji aho nara odoranya son son! (It's a fool who dances and a fool who watches; if both are fools, you might as well dance!).Because of this chant, Awa odori is sometimes called the fool's dance.
The movements are really simple; all you have to do is keep your legs and
arms moving forward with as much vigor as possible. Men dance in tabi
(split-toed, rubber-soled socks), while women wear sandals, their heels
not touching the ground. One rule you have to observe is to keep your hands
and arms above your shoulder while dancing. This is quite unusual, since most dancing styles in Japan emphasize downward motion. Awa odori is upward oriented.The dancing style is believed to have been invented one night in 1585, when construction of a new castle for the lord of the Awa domain was completed. During the party held to celebrate the new castle, people got so drunk that they started dancing with their arms and legs flailing.A lot of events take place around the country during the Bon season in mid-August, and Awa odori is among the most famous.