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Traditional western Japan Awa dance festival returns after 2 years away

TOKUSHIMA -- The summer Awa Odori traditional dance festival began for the first time in two years in this western Japan city, and will run from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15.

    Awa Odori dancers on stage charm an audience in the city of Tokushima on Aug. 12, 2021, the day before the main event. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

    In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic caused the festival's first cancellation since the end of WWII. In consideration of the current state of infections nationwide, this year venues are in principle limited to indoor facilities and only Tokushima Prefecture residents may participate. This has made the festival, which usually fills the city center with an energetic dancing mood, unconventional.

    Two Awa Odori dance troupes gave three performances at indoor facility Awagin Hall on the eve of the festival. Some 240 members, among them dancers clad in "happi" coats, entertained audiences with men's and women's dances to a bouncy "zomeki" rhythm provided by drums, small gongs and other instruments.

    The festival's executive committee that served as its main organizer dissolved at the end of March 2021, and the Tokushima Municipal Government has stepped in to run this year's edition. The government presented multiple event plans on different scales depending on the state of infections, and eventually decided it should be held to "pass down traditional culture to the next generation."

    (Japanese original by Masahiro Mino, Tokushima Bureau)

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