[By Priscilla Bulan Josehua]
Bon Odori – a traditional Japanese celebration that honours the dead. The festival is not only celebrated in Japan but also worldwide, including here in Malaysia. It has been held in Penang, Shah Alam and Kota Kinabalu. Bon Odori is basically the Japanese counterpart of the Ghost Festival and the Day of the Dead, celebrated every year during summer.
Taylor’s Anime Society (TAS) organize the outing to the Bon Odori held in Shah Alam every year for the purpose of exposing members to Japanese culture. The outing is also to strengthen the bonds between the members and encourage old and new members to get to know more of each other. Some of the TAS members donned yukatas for the occasion, a light cotton kimono that is usually worn by the Japanese during the festival. Members were advised to bring their own umbrellas, since it rained during the last festival.
And rain it did. Visitors quickly took shelter at the indoor stadium and got the chance to see the dancers and drummers preparing for the performance. Attendees cheered them on when the performers were chanting (I was told that first timers tend to think that the performance is going to be in the stadium). Once the rain subsided, the visitors were able to enjoy the ambience of the festival.
There was a massive crowd of people and each stall was flooded with customers keen on experiencing the rich and unique Japanese food. Halal food was also available for Muslim visitors. Those who regretted not buying yukatas earlier could just rent from a stall offering temporary yukatas. Big companies such as Sakae Sushi and Sushi King also participated to bring that authentic Japanese touch to the festival. Since Bon Odori is usually celebrated during the summer, it was also only rational that there would be cold desserts sold at the festival. The ‘shaved ice’ sold out fast.
There were three sessions of the Bon Odori, and visitors are always encouraged to join in anytime to experience the culture. Guests tried their best to keep up with the performers on stage. Of course, it’s harder for the first timers to dance according to the beat of the drums – the majority just shouted, “Hey!” since they hadn’t memorised the dance.
The spirits might not have been entirely amused, though I hope they appreciated the effort.