JOHOR BARU: A zapin dance performed by students of Kolej Islam Johor (KIJ) was a hit among a group of Japanese students who visited the college as part of an exchange programme.
The students were so thrilled that they asked the performers to teach them the dance.
“I really loved the dance and want to learn it to show it to my friends in Japan,” said Kenzo Watanabe, 16.
Zapin is a polpular dance in Malaysia, especially in Johor, and it is believed to have been introduced by Muslim missionaries from the Middle East in the 14th century.
The dancers usually perform in pairs and are accompanied with traditional music played on the gambus (a stringed instrument), accordion, violin, marwas (bongos) and rebana (drum).
The 234 Japanese students and teachers from Shichirigahama High School in Tokyo were on a tour to Singapore and Malaysia.
Their tour included visits to colleges, museums, shopping complexes and villages.
Besides learning the zapin, the students were showed how to play games like congkak, batu seremban and sepak takraw.
They were also thought how to make ketupat.
“I thought that making ketupat was like origami but I was wrong as it was more complex,” said Ozawa Yui, 17, who took about 15 minutes to make her ketupat.
Another student Hamada Yojiro, 16, enjoyed playing sepak takraw.
“The game is like a mix of football and badminton but the ball is hard,” he said, adding that he planned to purchase a ball and take it home.
For KIJ student Nurnadia Mahmud, 18, it was an exciting time as she was able to make new friends.
The Japanese school’s vice-principal Maejima Kenji hoped the programme would enable his students to understand Malay culture and traditions.
Zainon Haron, the co-ordinator who brought the Japanese students to KIJ, said it was not their first trip here.
“Last year, they came to KIJ as part of a programme to visit Johor. Besides KIJ, we took them to the museum, a shopping centre in Johor Baru and kampung areas,” said Zainon.
“For next year, the students will live with Malaysian families and visit local schools,” said Zainon.