With Bon Odori Malaysia 2018 coming up this Saturday, July 21st, at the Shah Alam National Sports Complex in Selangor and Esplanade in Penang, many of us may be swept away by the excitement of wearing yukata and watching fireworks, but what is the real purpose of this festival, and what are some cultural customs that attendees should be aware of?
Obon (お盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This custom has turned into a holiday celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years, and traditionally includes a dance called Bon Odori. The Bon dance varies between each region in Japan, but its symbolic meaning remains as one that welcomes the spirits of the dead, and appreciates the sacrifices of ancestors.
Because Obon occurs during summer each year, attendees traditionally don yukata, a casual summer-styled kimono paired with geta shoes. The Bon Odori festival in Malaysia includes a variety of food and drinks, arts and dance that allows Malaysians to understand the Japanese culture in greater detail.
Due to the nature and symbolic meaning of the festival, we urge attendees to avoid cosplaying at the festival as it may show signs of disrespect for the spiritual event. Acceptable forms of attire include the aforementioned yukata, or just simple casual wear.
For more information on Bon Odori 2018, look out for updates on the Facebook event page hosted by The Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur.