Participating in a local tradition

Moriroku joins with the community in a major dance festival

In Tokushima Prefecture, where Moriroku was originally founded, the Awa Odori dance festival has been held for about 400 years (Awa is the old name for the prefecture). Each year in mid-August, over one million people gather in the city of Tokushima to watch the festival, making it the largest dance festival in Japan. During the event, many teams of dancers and musicians wearing traditional clothing parade through the streets. As a long-established member of the community, Moriroku has been participating in the festival for six decades, organizing its own team of about 130 performers each year.

Local indigo-dyed goods traders popularized the festival over its history

Countless people have enjoyed the Awa Odori dance festival since it first began around four centuries ago at the beginning of Japan's Edo period (1603 to 1868). Local rulers at that time often prohibited the festival due to fears that the excitement it caused among the common people could lead to an uprising, but the lively event was too popular to stop. In the early 1800s, the number of people participating in the festival increased as the Awa area's indigo-dyed goods grew famous across Japan. The traders who travelled the country to sell those products returned to Awa with various folk songs and dances they experienced in other regions. Consequently, the festival was influenced by many local cultures, and performing arts became deeply rooted among the people of Tokushima.

With its long history in the area as a trader of locally made indigo-dyed products, Moriroku organized its own group to participate in the Awa Odori festival in 1960. At first, the group was made up of 40 to 50 employees working at the company's local Shikoku Branch as well as members of their families. Besides dancing, the group's members also played various traditional musical instruments such as drums and the shamisen (a three-stringed instrument). The Shikoku Branch has decreased in size since that time, but the performance group has continued to participate in the Awa Odori every year.

Male dancers give a dynamic performance using fansIn contrast to the elegant dancing of the women, male participants perform exciting and lively dances using traditional Japanese handheld fans.

Image: Male dancers give a dynamic performance using fans

Participation in the festival strengthens ties in the community

Today, more than 100 members participate in Moriroku's long-established performance group, including employees from workplaces in and outside the prefecture as well as members of the Company's business partners. The group increases to about 130 members when a team of performers from the neighboring city of Naruto join for the festival. Altogether, they are organized into four lines of performers extending for about 50 meters. On the day of the festival, everyone performs a group dance in the afternoon, then a moving dance along the streets of Tokushima in the early evening, and a final dance at the branch office in the evening. Employees from other workplaces in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and other cities in Japan come every year to watch the performance. The Company also invites customers from other countries to visit and see the festival. This makes it a very big event for Moriroku.

Having participated for almost 60 years, Moriroku has strengthened its ties with many local and major companies, and works with them to energize the community as a good corporate citizen. More than just a festival, the Awa Odori contributes to building strong bonds in the area.

Costumes designed to commemorate Moriroku's historyFounded in 1663, the Moriroku Group celebrated its 350th anniversary in 2013. Every year since then, Moriroku's participants in the Awa Odori festival have worn traditional costumes designed to commemorate this milestone.

Image: Costumes designed to commemorate Moriroku's history

Aiming to be a company with a 400-year history

More than 1,000 performance groups now participate in the Awa Odori festival. Like Moriroku's group, some are made up of employees of workplaces, while other groups are comprised of students, members of tourism associations, and other organizations. The ages and skill levels of members vary widely, and some participants live in other cities. Foreign residents from various countries also participate. When such a diverse group of people comes together to perform at the Awa Odori, the experience is very powerful.

The festival has also been changing over the years. Dance and musical performances have become more refined and are held outside Tokushima in other places of Japan and overseas. While carefully maintaining its history and traditions, the Awa Odori festival is passing down its spirit to younger generations and opening up new possibilities. In the same way, Moriroku is transforming and taking on challenges with a view to reach the milestone of its 400th year of doing business.

Moriroku's performers at the festival in August 2018In recognition of six decades of participation, Moriroku's dance group was invited to perform in a special seated area during the festival in addition to performing in the streets.

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