Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bon Odori Festival in Malaysia

Background: Bon Odori refers to a Japanese traditional dance, associated with the celebration of the remembrance and appreciation towards the ancestors, in relation to Buddhism-Confucianism. 
In Malaysia, the celebration focuses more on Japanese culture and less on the religion. Held in the summer, some time in mid-July, Bon Odori festivals would be held in Selangor and Penang. Some said the same are also held in Johor Bharu and Sabah.

How to get there: For the one in Selangor, the location of the event is at the Kompleks Sukan Negara (Panasonic Sports Center) GPS: +3° 3' 25.19", +101° 32' 49.38". You can either Google your way there, or park at Stesen Komuter Shah Alam and take the free shuttle buses. Free admission.
Note: The other name of the place is Shah Alam Matsushita Stadium.
Note: The event time is from 5-10 pm, and so the shuttle buses would operate from 4-11 pm.

Many buses making rounds; rushing and fighting for seats are really not necessary

Good to know: The organiser has set some guidelines for people attending the Bon Odori.
  • Attire: preferably yukata, otherwise something casual and proper 
  • NO Cosplay, Gothic and Lolita dressing
  • Shoes: sandals or slippers, i.e. flat-heeled 
  • NO high heels on the dancing field  
  • NO smoking except at the designated areas 

The Experience 
Honestly, this was my first Bon Odori festival, although I've been hearing about it since many years ago. This year it was held on Saturday, July 6. Since the date was a few days past my birthday, and I was feeling rather celebratory...oh, let's go and check this event out! 
Note: Actually, this year they're having it earlier in view of the coming Ramadhan starting on July 10.

The fest started from 5pm, but we only arrived after performing our Maghrib prayers. By that time, some were already leaving but there's still a lot of things going on. At the entrance, there's a guy handing out free fans. I like! Looking at the surrounding, there were visitors who came dressed in various forms of Japanese traditional clothes, and it helped to add up the feel of the merriment.


We were welcomed by booths selling Japanese stuffs like omiyage including yukata and other arty crafties. 

Most of the remaining booths were all about food. There's sushi, soba, teppanyaki, green tea and all other forms of Japanese food and drinks brought to you by various Japanese brand names. I got my favourite Meiji green tea ice cream, and was introduced to a rather large Beard Papa's cream puff. Yumms! 


Many other creative food to explore too, like this flavoured bread trying to make it big in the Malaysian market....ah, I forgot the name! Will search for it later. I was super happy, although overall the prices charged were not exactly cheap. Cheaper than normal retail prices, but not cheap. That's my teeny tiny issue on the matter.

There was, of course, the dance. There's a stage built up a few metres higher in the centre of the field, where drummers and dancers performed the Bon Odori (dance). As for us, we just joined the mass and followed the steps as shown by the dancers. The steps were pretty simple, just one or two steps forward, backward, turn around and clap. We moved around the center stage, as the dancers moved within the stage while the drummers played the tune. The spirit of the crowd was lively, it could certainly bring up a sour mood to soar. I must say, the cheers from crowd around me made the spirit of togetherness felt, and definitely loaded up the fun! 

At 9:20 pm, there's the fireworks show. I don't know whether engineer was good or it has something to do with Japanese technology but the fireworks was sooooo AWESOME!! This could be one of the most mesmerising fireworks display ever! Standing from below, looking up above into the sky, I felt the 3D effects of the splatters and crackles of the formation. My friend who came along totally agreed with me that this was one of the best fireworks show we've ever seen. I felt like a little girl, being impressed by such a simple thing in life <^_^>

And that's the end of the Malaysia's annual Bon Odori festival. I came with little expectations and went back with positive memories of the event. Maybe I'll come again next year, dressed in yukata et. al. Or maybe I'll go to the Bon Odori in its home, that's a plan ;-)  

The closing bow

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