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Test event for summer 2021 Awa Odori dance festival held in west Japan with virus measures

A test event for an Awa Odori traditional dance festival is held while taking preventative measures against the new coronavirus, such as having spectators and performers maintain distance from one another, in the western Japan city of Tokushima on Nov. 21, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Yamazaki)

TOKUSHIMA -- An event to examine ways to hold a famous Awa Odori traditional dance festival next summer was held in this western Japan city, with participants taking preventative measures against the new coronavirus.

    Some 180 performers, including members of prominent groups belonging to the Tokushima Prefecture Awa Odori association, participated in the Awa Odori Next Model event at Aibahama Park in the city of Tokushima on Nov. 21 and 22. Audience seats were limited to around a fifth of the usual number, and performers wearing masks or face shields also refrained from chanting during the dance.

    Performers are seen dancing with face shields on during a test event for an Awa Odori traditional dance festival, which was held while taking preventative measures against the new coronavirus, such as having spectators and performers maintain distance from one another, in the western Japan city of Tokushima on Nov. 21, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Yamazaki)

    Hideaki Oka, 79, the head of Awa Odori group Gojyahei, said that although it is customary for performers to dance in five rows at Aibahama Park, it was changed to three rows in the event so that they can dance while maintaining distance from one another. The dancers were all smiles, with the male performers showing brilliant, deft hand movements while the women displayed graceful, synchronized dances.

    Oka commented, "Although it was tough with masks on, it was all the more enjoyable as we weren't able to perform this summer. I'd like the festival to be held next year, even if the number of spectators is limited."

    Audience members underwent temperature checks and sat while keeping three seats vacant on either side of them. They were seen enjoying the event while applauding and taking pictures of the performers.

    Performers are seen dancing with masks on during a test event for an Awa Odori traditional dance festival, which was held while taking preventative measures against the new coronavirus, such as having spectators and performers maintain distance from one another, in the western Japan city of Tokushima on Nov. 21, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Yamazaki)

    Although the test event was held amid a nationwide spike in coronavirus infections, Tokushima Mayor Sawako Naito commented, "There have been about one or two infections recorded daily in Tokushima. Holding this event while creating guidelines in keeping with this new normal was necessary to be able to hold the Awa Odori festival next year."

    A separate event hosted by the Tokushima Prefectural Government and the prefectural tourism association called the New Normal Awa Odori Festival will also be held in the city of Tokushima on Dec. 5 and 6. A total of 1,000 spectators are allowed to enter each day, and the event involves both physical stages and online performances. Visitors will be given masks made of indigo dye fabric using a traditional weaving technique originating in the western Japan area. Tickets can be applied for at https://www.nn-awaodori.jp

    (Japanese original by Ayane Matsuyama and Sakura Iwamoto, Tokushima Bureau)

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