The Shimokitazawa Awaodori dance festival may be much smaller than its infamous Koenji counterpart, held later in August, but its energy levels definitely match up.

Shimokitazawa has been undergoing major changes this past year, with the Odakyu train tracks moving underground, eliminating the street-level crossings and most of the surrounding station market. The dynamics of this neighbourhood have changed forever.

Despite this facelift and a gentrified train station, Shimokitazawa’s soul remains and you can get a taste of its traditional side during the annual awaodori festival. The streets of the area come alive for various festivals throughout the summer, but this is definitely one not to miss.

Already in its 48th year, the festival presents numerous troupes of dancers shimmying along Ichiban-gai (the main shopping street) as soon as the sun sets on both Friday and Saturday night. If you stick around for a little bit, you can witness the real spectacle, including choreographed dance moves originating from the original Tokushima roots of awaodori.

The already lively streets of Shimokita will turn into a festive, uproarious gathering, and of course the alcohol will be free-flowing and food stalls in place. No Japanese festival would be complete without those, of course, and many local restaurants and bars will move their operations onto the streets; even second hand clothes shops are likely to have a bucket of ice with a few cans of beer for sale out front…

Shimokitazawa Awaodori (click for more information)

When: August 9-10, 18:30-20:30

Where: Shimokitazawa Ichibangai (see map)

How much: Free

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Main image: Shimokitazawa Yattokoren