Happily bon-ding again after break

(From left) University students Chiyien Lee, Tay Zhao Ee, Go and Yee, clad in yukatas, checking out the cherry blossoms and giant koi at the main arch during the Bon Odori Festival 2022 in Esplanade, George Town, Penang. – Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

VISITORS to the Bon Odori Festival 2022 at the Esplanade, George Town, had a delightful taste of Japan as they immersed themselves in various aspects of its culture and traditions.

The first to be held since the Covid-19 pandemic, it attracted a crowd of several thousands with an array of family-oriented cultural activities spread across over 100 booths.

Some of the highlights included food, games, souvenirs, photo backdrops and yukata (cotton kimono) rentals, while the main stage hosted music and dance performances.

Many were spotted in colourful kimono, including a group of university students.

Children enjoying traditional Japanese games like yo-yo tsuri (or water balloon fishing).Children enjoying traditional Japanese games like yo-yo tsuri (or water balloon fishing).

The students, who are from different states, share a common love for anime and decided to check out the festival for the first time.

“We wanted to experience the atmosphere,” said Simone Yee, 22, from Kuala Lumpur, while taking selfies at the main arch adorned with cherry blossoms and lanterns.

Go Ming Hui, also 22, from Melaka, quipped: “We actually have final exams on Monday. But we work hard and play hard!”

Also enjoying the festivities for the first time was head nurse Noor Aini Zulkifli, 41, who brought along her husband and three children.

Performers drumming and dancing during the Bon Odori Festival 2022.Performers drumming and dancing during the Bon Odori Festival 2022.

“It’s a good opportunity to experience the culture of a different country.

“We’ve never been to Japan so it’s nice to get a taste of it right here in Penang,” she added.

Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Katsuhiko Takahashi expressed delight that the popular event could be held again, especially since this year marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Coincidently, it is also the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s Look East Policy.

Visitors braving the light drizzle to take in the dazzling fireworks display that capped off the festival.Visitors braving the light drizzle to take in the dazzling fireworks display that capped off the festival.

“The Bon Odori is testament to the cordial bilateral ties we share.

“It’s also an opportunity for our people to bond and strengthen relationships year after year,” Takahashi said in his speech.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said such events helped build bridges for mutual understanding, which was important in this era of globalisation.

The event ended with a lucky draw and spectacular fireworks display.

Also present were Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak, consul-general of Japan in Penang Hiroyuki Orikasa as well as state tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin.

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