Last Saturday, 18th July 2009 was the day where the annual Bon Odori festival was held at Matsushita Corp Stadium in Shah Alam..
Other than the one in Selangor, another similar event is being held in Penang as well..
Bon Odori, is an event held during Obon, which is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed spirits of one’s ancestors..
So yeah, it’s quite a traditional festival and I don’t think it should be modernized, unless the Japanese Buddhist are doing so..
My first visit to Bon Odori was 7 years ago, when I was in Lower Six Form..
I vaguely remembered what has happened or know about what Bon Odori is..
*At 6pm when we reach the place*
The stadium was still quite “empty”, although there were already lots of people at the entrance gate and the stadium seats were practically ALL occupied..
It’s already an hour after the event has started at 5pm and we could still find ample of parking lots inside the stadium car park..
*Japanese culture, food and drinks*
Plenty of stalls and booths were set up to sell Japanese goodies such as sushi, Japanese beer a.k.a Asahi, green tea, Japanese ice-creams, fried ramen, etc etc..
But, on a side note, they were selling products from other country as well, like Budweiser, Foster’s, and few others..
*People with yukata, an informal kimono*
It’s the day where you’ll see people from all walks of like walking around in yukata under the hot dry sun..
Yukata, an informal type of kimono where kimono are made of silk, yukata are made of cotton..
The guy with the Suntory Green Tea is Joyce..Yeah, a guy..
So here’s a group pic of us..At last there’s a decent face in my own camera, where someone complained I always have other people’s faces in my photos but not my own..
*The field before Bon Odori starts*
This photo is taken at about 7pm, an hour after I’ve taken the first pic I’ve posted above..The difference was humongous..
From an empty close to half-filled field became an almost 90% filled field..
Move on for more photos on the performances and something really really irks me as a Malaysian and I felt sorry for the Japanese..
*The crowd before it starts*
People were sitting on the field waiting for the Bon Odori to start..
An opening and welcome speech by a Japanese representative, whom I guessed is one of the people on the higher managements of the organizing company..
The Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid was also seen sitting in the dock with Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia and other fellow Japanese representatives..
*Bon Odori kickstarts*
The Bon Odori (Bon dance) kickstarted not long after the speech by the Japanese rep..
It’s a slow-mo folk dance which I think it stressed more on the movements and concentration on the “celebration” as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one’s ancestors..
The dance movements and songs also varies from region to region in Japan..
Each song and dance movement has its own meaning depending on the region and the type of it such as “Soran Bushi” (northern Japan), “Goshu Ondo” (Shiga prefecture), “Kawachi Ondo” (Kansai area), or “Tanko Bushi” (Kyushu), to name a few..
When they began to dance, some people among the crowd off the stage imitated their movements..
From some of them then suddenly the whole dancing thing spread like an outbreak to almost all of the people surrounding the stage joined hands and all danced together..
We got pushed out of the circle and it’s all empty beside the stage..So we forced ourselves in with me shouting “Sumi masen”..Then we were standing right beside the stage taking pics and all..
They danced for 2-3 songs before it take a break..
*Dance by guest performers of a school in Shah Alam*
Then there’s a special dance by guest performers by the students of a school in Shah Alam..
Sorry for the out of focus pic, was shooting from above the people’s head..
Although I could barely see their performance but by the movements of their hat and the color of their costumes, I could say they were quite synchronized with the choreographs..
After the guest performance, they resumed the Bon Odori, and the songs and dances were repeats..
Since it’s a repeat, most people roughly knew the rhythm and steps already..So at least 90% of the people joined the fun, again..
*An overview of the crowd*
I know, it’s like a sea of people walking around the stage, holding the fan flapping here and there..It was quite a sight..
*Other people having fun and all*
Like I mentioned earlier, Bon Odori is a gesture to show gratefulness toward one’s ancestors and in such festival it’s usually conservative, if not always..
So I don’t think I’m wrong if I were to say the dance movements are stressed in expressing one’s feeling as depicted in the song and also the concentration on the “celebration” itself..
Unfortunately, a small group of people who I deemed childish, were embarrassing themselves as well as making fun of the Japanese culture..
This incident really irked me a lot and I felt ashamed as a Malaysian myself..
*The people who I deemed childish*
In one of the songs, there were parts where the dancer has to clap one of his/her hand with the fan he/she is holding..
So generally that gesture of course created the clapping sound of the fan and the hand, or the sound will also be the same if you hit the fan on other parts of your body..
This group of people shown on the pic above were making fun of the song and dance..
Apparently they found a good way of making that clapping sound, by hitting the fan on their friends’ shoulder or head..
One started, then followed by another, and another, and eventually a bunch of them were doing the same thing..
As shown on the pic above, some of them even surrounded one of their friends and the whole group started to hit that ONE guy on the head with the fan..
Their actions really made my blood boiled and I nearly got high-blood pressure at that very moment..
Not to say that I’m a hardcore Japanese fan or whatsoever, it’s like, you are praying your deceased family, the Buddhist way, few friends are paying respect to YOUR deceased family member as well..
Suddenly they make fun of the praying and started to do the old-time funny Egyptian hand gesture behind you, or maybe in front of you..
*How if it’s the funnily animated one hand on top and one hand below creating the S sign*
Or maybe when you are kneeling down to pray, the Islamic way, then suddenly a group of people behind the imam are frog-jumping around the mosque?
It’s not a good sight and do you feel ashamed? I bet you do..
There was also a part where the dancers hold hands and moved back and forth, but some of the crowd, they pulled their friends so hard that some of them actually almost fell down, and some were running around trying to catch their friends’ hands..
The whole thing really annoys me and I got irritated, I snapped a pic of them..Not long after that, we left the scene..
*Taken outside of the stadium*
The crowd was still massive..We left at 8pm, and there were still people going in the time we left..
By just looking at the crowd in the stadium, I cannot imagine how the traffic jam would be when the event ends..
That’s one of the reasons we left early and also, there’s nothing much left to see coz the dances are all repetitive..
So that’s all about my Bon Odori..
Majulah Budaya Untuk Negara..To hell for the people who make fun of it..