Tokushima famous for the Awa Odori dance and the Nature’s Whirlpools

Home Japan Travel Guide Shikoku Tokushima Tokushima famous for the Awa Odori dance and the Nature’s Whirlpools

Tokushima City is the capital of Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku Island, which is the 4th largest island in Japan. The population is about 250,000. The city is located at the mouth of the 194 km-long Yoshino River, and it has two claims to fame; the Awa Odori dance festival and the Naruto Whirlpools. Let’s learn more about these attractions!

Awa Odori

women dancing at awaodori festival in japan

The city’s main tourist attraction is the Awa Odori, a highly popular, annual dance festival held during the Obon season in mid-August. The Awa Odori dance is known throughout Japan. The 400-year-old dance is currently also performed outside the prefecture, and dancers have been invited to perform at overseas events.

The Awa Odori dance is considered to be as passionate and international as Rio’s Carnival. Therefore you may find yourself joining in on the fun. There are many groups of dancers called ‘Ren’. They practice hard in order to dance well at the festival.

There are male dances and female dances that are slightly different from each other. Men dance while wearing a happi coat while women dance while wearing a straw hat. They are accompanied by 6 instruments. The Japanese flute, shamisen, 3 kinds of drums, and sho (a bell hit by the wooden stick).

Awaodori Kaikan

Awaodori Kaikan festival museum in Tokushima, Japan

In case you can’t be there at the time of the event, the Awaodori Kaikan in the center of the city is open for you to experience the Awaodori at any time of the year. If you wish, you can even dance here during a one-hour experience. First, the professional local dancers give a demonstration. It is done in a really beautiful setting with colorful lighting. They dance to the rhythm of the instruments.

After the first performance, they will give a lesson on how to dance and then you can join them. Two guests will be chosen as the best dancers, and they can get a small prize. Then they give one last performance. After you try to dance yourself, you can appreciate their professional skills even more.

The venue is located at a 10-minute walk from Tokushima station.

Naruto Whirlpools

Naruto Whirlpools as seen from the observation tower in Tokushima, Japan

In Tokushima, you can also visit the famous giant Naruto whirlpools, just outside of the city on the shore of Naruto strait. There is a narrow strait between the cape of Naruto and Awaji Island of about 1.3 km. At high tide, the seawater flows from the Pacific Ocean to the Seto Inland Sea, and at low tide, the seawater flows in reverse.

Because the width of the strait is narrow, at high and low tide, the speed of the tidal current become 13 to 15 kilometers per hour. It is the fastest current in Japan. Because of this fast current and the complicated shape of the seabed, whirlpools are generated whose diameter can become 15 meters.

Naruto Whirlpools with a tourist boat in Tokushima, Japan

You can appreciate the whirlpools in three ways. One is overlooking the whirlpools and beautiful scenery around it from the observation tower on the hill. You can also look down the whirlpool through the glass window on the floor from the passage built under the Ohnaruto Bridge. And if you ride a sightseeing boat, you can see the whirlpools from very close up.

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Access to Tokushima station:

Take express train from Takamatsu (1 hour)

Access to Naruto:

Take a bus from Tokushima or Takamatsu (40-50 minutes)

Tokushima Area Map

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