'Fool's dance' in full swing

Japan's Shikoku Island celebrated the Awa Odori festival in Toku- shima on Sunday, with Mr Eiji Ohmatsudani of the Sasa-ren group leading dancers on the street during the festivities.

The annual festival, which originates from the Buddhist custom of honouring the spirits of one's ancestors, sees the otherwise sleepy city turn into a stage for four days.

Spectators and dancers alike visit Tokushima between Aug 12 and 15 every year to take part in the "fool's dance", whose origins date back 400 years.

The nickname comes from the lyrics to a common dance song, which translates as follows: "Fools dance and fools watch; if both are fools, you might as well dance".

Groups of dancers and musicians, known as "ren", parade through the streets to the sound of traditional instruments such as lutes, drums and flutes, according to The Japan Times. Decked out in costumes based on the yukata (summer kimono), they chant in chorus and dance in sync according to each group's choreography.

The dance festival attracts more than 1.2 million people annually.

Said 32-year-old dancer Masayuki Tatekawa: "You need practice when you do other Japanese traditional performing arts, but anyone can enjoy Awa Odori… just by raising your hands and taking steps to the rhythm."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline ''Fool's dance' in full swing'. Print Edition | Subscribe