Awa odori is famous as the fools’ dance because of the lyrics that give it its rhythm: "The dancers are fools - The watchers are fools - Both are fools alike so - Why not dance?" This folk dance dates back to 1587 when the lord Hachisuka IEMASA celebrated the achievement Tokushima’s new castle with the town’s people and offered them saké. They got so drunk they started staggering and dancing unsteady steps. The festival attracts over 1.5 million visitorsper year in Tokushima.
The awa odori dance is made of irregular steps danced to a joyful rhythm. Groups of dancers parade in the city to the sound of shamisen, drums, the brass, and flutes. They wear short light costumes, with colors specific to each group. Professional groups are called ren.
In the daytime, the Awa Odori groups dance a restrained dance called nagashi, but at night some sort of fever comes over the city, when the dancers start dancing the zomeki, a much more frenzied dance, and when the visitors join "the fools’ dance"!