BON Odori Festival, which has been celebrated in Penang for the past 22 years, will give visitors a different experience this time as though they are ‘walking into Japan’ when it is held on July 20 at Queensbay Mall outdoor car park.
That is the promise of the office of state Tourism Development, Arts, Culture & Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin (PETACH) and the Japanese Consulate-General office, which are jointly organising the festival.
“We want to bring Japan to our doorstep so that our locals don’t have to go to Japan to experience Bon Odori. It can be done at our doorstep. We want to encourage the locals to be more involved in cultural events and to play an active role in making Penang a beautifully diverse place to live in and at the same time, position Penang as a cultural melting pot of the region,” Yeoh told a press conference in Komtar today.
Yeoh also said this year’s festival would feature the Miss Penang Bon Odori 2019 contest for the first time.
“The beauty contest is part of the state’s effort to rebrand and bring the event to another level,” he said of the festival that was usually held at the Esplanade.
“Supporters can view the photos of all the eight finalists on our ‘Experience Penang’ Facebook Page and vote by clicking ‘Like’ on the photo they best like. Voting ends at 6pm on July 19. The finalist with the most votes will be awarded the Miss Popularity Subsidiary title.’
Miss Universe Japan 2018 Yuumi Kato, a special guest for the festival, will be one of the judges for the Miss Penang Bon Odori 2019 and also crown the winner.
Traditionally, the Japanese celebrate the Bon Odori Festival with dances and lively drum performances to welcome the annual homecoming of ancestral spirits.
The event will also see for the first time QR code guest registration and digital lucky draw system.
The attractive lucky prizes include a Honda motorcycle, return flight ticket to Tokyo (courtesy of Southern China Airlines), hotel stay vouchers, hotel buffet vouchers and electrical appliances.
The festival will also be showcasing an anime and cosplay corner this year to cater for the youngsters who are fans of Japanese anime.
Also present at the press conference were Japanese consul-general in Penang Shinichiro Kanoya, vice-consul Kosuke Nakagawa, Penang Japanese Association secretary-general So Takayoshi and China Southern Airlines (Penang Office) general manager Liu Zhen Hua.
Kanoya said he was happy to note that many Japanese restaurants from hotels would be taking part and expressed hope that the public would enjoy the traditional Japanese food.
Nakagawa, speaking on behalf of Kanoya, said the local dance performance would come from Penang Japanese School and students from SM Sultan Abdul Halim (Kedah) and SM Sains Kepala Batas.
Three groups from Japan have been invited to perform. They are the Ryukyu-Koku Matsuri-Daiko drumming ensemble from Okinawa, Ryukyu Breeze with Kachimba, also from Okinawa, and Tokyo’s Qualia.
The Ryukyu Breeze with Kachimba would perform a mixed modern dance with Latin music, while Qualia’s two-member team would show off their famous robot dance.
Japanese comedian Zenjiro, who took part last year, would be back to entertain the crowd with his humour again.
This year’s Penang Bon Odori starts at 5pm and ends at 11.30pm.
Story by K.H. Ong