Japanese thank Malaysians at Bon Odori 2011

Selangor exco for tourism, consumer affairs and environment Elizabeth Wong taking part in the Bon Odori dance

It was a joyful evening of Japanese culture, fascinating folk dance and delicious cuisines for the mammoth crowd of over 30,000 people that thronged Kompleks Sukan Negara (Panasonic Sports Stadium) in Section 21, Shah Alam last Saturday 16th July for the momentous Bon Odori 2011 celebration.

The event was graced by Selangor state exco for tourism, consumer affairs and environment, Elizabeth Wong, who joined Japanese ambassador to Malaysia, Shigeru Nakamura, and thousands from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds in performing the folk dance called Bon Odori.

This year’s event themed “Arigatou Malaysia” meaning “Thank You Malaysia” was held by the joint-organizers, Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur, Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur and the Embassy of Japan to thank the Malaysian people for their generous support given in the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

The crowd of people with many dressed in brightly coloured traditional Japanese yukata and some in casual wear took part in the bon dance by forming a long line and encircling the Yagura, a special platform set up in the centre of the stadium, waving their hand and bodies, bowing and swaying together.

On the Yagura, Taiko drummers pounded away to the beat of Japanese folklore music and dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed the bon dance.

There was also a colourful multi-cultural dance performance by a cultural troupe donning vibrant costumes from Tourism Selangor which enthralled the crowd.

Besides the dance, there were great variety of delicious traditional Japanese cuisines and beer on sale at more than 30 stalls set up in the stadium attracting a great crowd.  Traditional Japanese foods such as teriyaki, udon, yakisoba, soba and Japanese beers such as sapporo and asahi could be purchased.

It was like a picnic in the park with so many people sitting on the mats in the grass and enjoying their food and folklore music.

Padmajothi a/l Sivaprakasam, 25, a mechanical engineer who came in one of the four buses from Multimedia University (MMU) Malacca campus said: “This is my first bon odori and It is simply awesome! I finally got a chance to see the bon odori dance which I heard so much about from friends who had been here before.

Jessica Mok (left) came with her red bearded dragon and friend Daphne Koo to join the fun

“The dance is so attractive and beautiful and I really enjoy the fun just watching the people dance  and wearing the yukata. I will definitely be back next year!” Padmajothi exclaimed in delight.

“We are having  an awesome time enjoying the carnival atmosphere here, the friendly crowd, the food and of course the bon odori dances,” said Aisya Yusof, 17, form five students of SMK Saujana Impian, Kajang, who came with her three school mates, all dressed up in beautiful yukata to have an enjoyable time.

Bixuan Lee, 19, a second year student studying for her five-year Bachelor of Medicine programme at Capital TCM Institute in Pudu KL said: “This is my third year attending the festival with my friends. It’s an amazing festival and we are here because we truly love the experience of the Japanese culture.”

Jessica Mok, 21, a braodcasting student at UTAR Petaling Jaya, came with her friend Daphne Koo, also 21, a budding copy writer said : “This is our third visits and we are having fun enjoying great Japanese food and culture here.”

Padmajothi on his first Bon Odori says it is simply awesome and will be back next year

Jessica brought along her one-year-old, 16” long male red bearded dragon called Pepper which attracted quite a crowd that gathered to take pictures with the pet lizard.

Bon Odori is a Japanese folk dance performed in Obon, the Japanese festival has been celebrated for more than 500 years.

It is held during the mid-year to welcome the ancestral spirits when they are believed to journey from heaven to visit this earthly realm. The festival is similar to the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated in Malaysia but what we are celebrating here is the dance.

The annual Bon Odori celebration in Malaysia is an effort by the co-organizers to promote and strengthen cultural ties between Malaysia and Japan. It provides an opportunity for those interested in appreciating and experiencing the Japanese culture of food, art and dance.

It is also celebrated in Penang and in the world over in countries such as USA and Canada.