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Koenji Awaodori (Co.-En-Gee Ah-Wah-O-Door-E): A large Japanese dance festival filled with thousands of dancers rhythmically grooving to traditional Japanese music. The festival originated on the southern island of Shikoku some four hundred years ago. Recently it has spread, with Koenji, a suburb of Tokyo, celebrating their own Awa festival. It is one of the thousands of Bon festivals held in Japan every year to honor the souls of ancestors.

But it is much more than that.

It is also a celebration of silliness. A release from the rigid order through one of the most ignoble, and grand, activities that one can join. Full of feet and arms flailing, flutes and shamisens singing, and drums and gongs booming in a never ending procession full of shouts and hollering. On August 27, 2005, when I saw the festival, there were some seventy-seven troupes in a tightly choreographed sway of movements and motions, with both males and females, boys and girls, young and old, all celebrating. Occasionally, through all the clamor and din, you could hear, odoru ahou ni miru ahou, onaji aho nara odoranya son son” being sung in rhythm to the beat.

“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance.”

I saw organized chaos.
And it was beautiful.

- Colin Ptak

© Colin Ptak, 2004-2010