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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Bon Odori a smashing hit in return to Penang

 

A visitor slamming a bamboo sword on a kendo exponent at the Bon Odori festival in Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: The excitement of those attending Bon Odori was palpable today, given the pent-up demand for the Japanese summer festival after a two-year hiatus forced by the pandemic.

Traffic came to a grind as thousands thronged the Esplanade padang as early as 4.30pm. Early birds picked choice picnic spots while others chowed down food from 100 Japanese and local stalls lined up in front of City Hall.

A giant entrance gate erected near the seawall was an immediate photo magnet; a replica of the Kaminarimon Gate near Tokyo, it featured hundreds of lanterns hanging on each side of the 13m (40ft) high structure.

A cultural show featuring Japanese traditional instruments such as drums and koto reverberated across the green. A classic dance featuring women in yukata (summer dress) circling on a giant stage kept the audience in awe.

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Japanese men and women in yukata (summer dress) taking part in a dance on the stage.

People also visited shateki (shooting game) stalls, crowded around a yukata stall selling jackets for RM25 each, while others had a thrill by taking turns to slam bamboo swords on exponents of kendo (a Japanese martial art).

An official said the event, which officially ends at 11pm, has already exceeded 10,000 visitors by early evening.

Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia, Katsuhiko Takahashi, said the event was emblematic of the relations between the two countries. He said Penang’s commitment in hosting the event for the past 25 years was commendable.

“Japan highly appreciates Malaysia’s cultural diversity and tolerance. This diversity and tolerance has been an engine to promote bilateral relations in all aspects including this Bon Odori festival,” he said.

Visitors to Bon Odori picnicking on the Esplanade padang in George Town today.

Takahashi also thanked some 1,600 Japanese companies who have invested in the country, with 120 of them in Penang, creating job opportunities and boosting the local economy.

Chief minister Chow Kon Yeow said the Bon Odori was a testament to the state’s commitment in appreciating diversity and peaceful co-existence, and in honour of Penang’s friendship with Japan.

The Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Fuzi Razak, was the guest-of-honour at the festival. Also present were Japan consul-general to Penang, Hiroyuki Orikasa, Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng and his sister Senator Lim Hui Ying. - FMT

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