16th July 2011, Saturday. My family and I spent our late afternoon in Esplanade, George Town, an open-space-park by the bay and soaked ourselves in Japanese colors.
As you may know, dusk falls in Malaysia later than other Southeast Asian skies due to its location so the sun was still up at 6PM when the 2011 Penang Bon Odori Festival started.
Drum rolls lorded our ears as a group of Japanese students performed on stage.
Despite its flaws, Penang never ceases to surprise me positively. With barely a year of stay as an expat here, I and my family are constantly soaked in cultural diversities. And almost every weekend, we gain new learnings from this Malaysian state. Familiar only with the 3 predominant races -Muslims, Chinese and Indians, we never thought Penang has a volume of Japanese too, enough to fill an entire park to feature and highlight one of their colorful traditions.
Bon Odori, or dances for the dead, is one of the traditional Japanese dances held every Summer in almost every city in Japan. And the Penang Bon Odori Festival is the largest of its kind celebrated outside the Land of the Rising Sun. This festival is about welcoming ancestors’ souls by beloved families and reminiscing their memories with them. Because of this Japanese Buddhism belief that ancestors’ souls return at night, the Bon dance is performed at dusk.
The Esplanade at George Town that stands by the glorious bay, on its smaller scale, is comparable to our very own Rizal Park in Manila. It was transformed into a merry land filled with booths that offer foods, drinks both Japanese and some local cuisines, and a lot of fascinating items.
Expectedly, the most favored drink with health benefits and perhaps, the most famous export of Japan was there at Bon Odori…
Gabby, ang laki ng Yakult, hindi kasya sa fridge!
Family photo-op with those beautiful people dressed in their yukata… *this doesn’t happen on a daily basis in Penang!*
Before they officially opened the program, I was looking for something more than the Bon Odori dance; something like a theme to capture…
It was a challenge to click the cam on their traditional wooden footwear called, geta
Japanese kids were a bit reserved…
I’ve already done features of Japanese food from sushi, sashimi, takoyaki and even Okonomiyaki…
and edgy-anime Japanese hair styles weren’t showcased that much. *punks not dead!*
so I shifted my fascination to their yukata, or their casual summer kimono made of cotton , particularly their sashes or obi belts.
I have been fortunate to experience Tokyo last year for 14 days exactly and since then, I’ve developed an appreciation for Japanese culture, arts and tradition. It’s amazing how these people fuse their colors and customs amidst their advancement in technology. I always marvel at the fact that there are always art and substance in anything they eat and wear.
For someone like me who’s fine with a pair of jeans, sneakers or rubber slippers, I wonder how comfortable wearing a yukata is.
Have you worn one? How does it feel wearing yukata?
“The left side of the yukata is wrapped over the right side (commonly reversed with right over left when dressing a body for a funeral) and secured with an obi sash tied in a bow with the excess or with the koshi-himo and traditionally the bow is placed in the back. Traditionally bows in the front represented a prostitute. In private, such as after a bath, the yukata may be simply belted. Yukata are often worn with wooden sandals called geta.” Soured via wiki
So if the bow is tied in front, it denotes being a prostitute, hmmm.. all obi belts I’ve seen in the event had bows at the back.
Even men wear obi…
but apparently, the sash is narrower and the knot is less intricate than in women, of course.
Knotted with creativity…
An art in itself..
Funny how someone who’s wearing a yukata can blend well with someone with the look of Harajuku Street in Tokyo…
They’ve kept last year’s fans and used it again this year.
Looking at their yukata and obi sashes was like viewing a kaleidoscope!
Obviously, there is harmony in diversities…
But nothing is sweeter than a sight of an entire family proudly wearing their tradition on their skin…
The event stretched from 6PM and ended with a colorful bursts of fireworks at 10 in the evening. We left the park at half hour after 7PM with takeaways of our leftover Japanese foods and just viewed the night skies from our porch at our 10th floor home.
To the people behind Penang Bon Odori Festival, Domo arigato gozaimasu! Terima Kasih! Maraming Salamat po!