16th July 2011, Saturday.Β  My family and I spent our late afternoon in Esplanade, George Town, an open-space-park by the bay and soaked ourselves in Japanese colors.

As you may know, dusk falls in Malaysia later than other Southeast Asian skies due to its location so the sun was still up at 6PM when the 2011 Penang Bon Odori Festival started.

Drum rolls lorded our ears as a group of Japanese students performed on stage.

Despite its flaws, Penang never ceases to surprise me positively. With barely a year of stay as an expat here, I and my family are constantly soaked in cultural diversities. And almost every weekend, we gain new learnings from this Malaysian state. Familiar only with the 3 predominant races -Muslims, Chinese and Indians, we never thought Penang has a volume of Japanese too, enough to fill an entire park to feature and highlight one of their colorful traditions.

Bon Odori, or dances for the dead, is one of the traditional Japanese dances held every Summer in almost every city in Japan. And the Penang Bon Odori Festival is the largest of its kind celebrated outside the Land of the Rising Sun. This festival is about welcoming ancestors’ souls by beloved families and reminiscing their memories with them. Because of this Japanese Buddhism belief that ancestors’ souls return at night, the Bon dance is performed at dusk.

The Esplanade at George Town that stands by the glorious bay, on its smaller scale, is comparable to our very own Rizal Park in Manila. It was transformed into a merry land filled with booths that offer foods, drinks both Japanese and some local cuisines, and a lot of fascinating items.

Expectedly, the most favored drink with health benefits and perhaps, the most famous export of Japan was there at Bon Odori…

Gabby, ang laki ng Yakult, hindi kasya sa fridge! πŸ˜€

Family photo-op with those beautiful people dressed in their yukata… *this doesn’t happen on a daily basis in Penang!*

Before they officially opened the program, I was looking for something more than the Bon Odori dance; something like a theme to capture…

It was a challenge to click the cam on their traditional wooden footwear called, getaΒ 

Japanese kids were a bit reserved…

I’ve already done features of Japanese food from sushi, sashimi, takoyaki and even Okonomiyaki

and edgy-anime Japanese hair styles weren’t showcased that much. *punks not dead!* πŸ˜›

so I shifted my fascination to their yukata, or their casual summer kimono made of cotton , particularly their sashes or obi belts.

I have been fortunate to experience Tokyo last year for 14 days exactly and since then, I’ve developed an appreciation for Japanese culture, arts and tradition. It’s amazing how these people fuse their colors and customs amidst their advancement in technology. I always marvel at the fact that there are always art and substance in anything they eat and wear.

For someone like me who’s fine with a pair of jeans, sneakers or rubber slippers, I wonder how comfortable wearing a yukata is.

Have you worn one? How does it feel wearing yukata?

“The left side of the yukata is wrapped over the right side (commonly reversed with right over left when dressing a body for a funeral) and secured with an obi sash tied in a bow with the excess or with the koshi-himo and traditionally the bow is placed in the back. Traditionally bows in the front represented a prostitute. In private, such as after a bath, the yukata may be simply belted. Yukata are often worn with wooden sandals called geta.” Soured via wiki

So if the bow is tied in front, it denotes being a prostitute, hmmm.. all obi belts I’ve seen in the event had bows at the back.

Even men wear obi…

but apparently, the sash is narrower and the knot is less intricate than in women, of course.

Knotted with creativity…

An art in itself..

Funny how someone who’s wearing a yukata can blend well with someone with the look of Harajuku Street in Tokyo…

They’ve kept last year’s fans and used it again this year.

Looking at their yukata and obi sashes was like viewing a kaleidoscope!

Obviously, there is harmony in diversities…

But nothing is sweeter than a sight of an entire family proudly wearing their tradition on their skin…

The event stretched from 6PM and ended with a colorful bursts of fireworks at 10 in the evening. We left the park at half hour after 7PMΒ  with takeaways of our leftover Japanese foods and just viewed the night skies from our porch at our 10th floor home.

To the people behind Penang Bon Odori Festival, Domo arigato gozaimasu! Terima Kasih! Maraming Salamat po! πŸ™‚


    1. thanks, rob *pormal*

      remember during my wedding, the entourage wore obi designed by tina.
      oh well, what is it for you to remember those! haha…

  1. After reading your post, now I really miss Japan ;-‘( I have lived in Japan for 2 years but never had the chance to wear the kimono. We love tako yaki and my kids love okonomiyaki. I just noticed from your pictures that those men are maybe living in Malaysia for a long time already, because typical boys (teenagers) in Japan are shaving their eyebrows hehehe, most of them have nicer eyebrow shape than old ladies lol. I love your firework’s picture, galing mo na talaga sa photography di na kita mareach nyan ha hehehe

    1. hi sards! if there’s one blog buddy that i have who’s an authority to speak anything about japan, it is you!
      i’ve been to few places in tokyo for only 2 weeks but you lived in misawa for 2 years! wow!

      kaya lang sayang, di ka nakapagsuot ng kimono? kahit pang photo op lang?
      i’m sure kimona mayroon ka… haha πŸ™‚

      about the fireworks photo, naku po! im too lazy to read nor even browse my manual, photography mags na monthly ko pa binibili (pero cheap naman!) and surf online fora about photography!

      nagpaturo lang ako kay chyng (i know she needs no more intro because of the tragic bali incident that became viral, hi chyng! πŸ™‚ ) and she was so generous enough to attach a quick settings on my fb inbox. kasi nga po di pa ko marunong ng night photography until she taught me a little *tamad nga kasi ako,remember?* hehehe…

      but thank you. πŸ™‚

      1. ps : i like takoyaki too! i’ve tasted an authentic one with little piece of octopus from a japanese chef in little tokyo in makati. ok din ang okonomiyaki! their version of pizza, right?

        i miss tokyo too! i hope i can bring tina and gabby to tokyo one day.

  2. nice info doc. galing naman how they make a ribbon out of those clothes. very artistic talaga ang mga Japanese. cute din at duon nila nilalagay sa likod nila yung pamaypay

  3. that’s a bonus. The esplanade is filled iwth people and their hungry stomachs. I wish I was there to witness this festival.

    I wonder if there are enough Filipinos to host such a cultural fair?

  4. di ko alam sasabihin ko sa sobrang dami ng gusto ko sabihin…. he he!

    i love that the men also were kimono. pero tama lang na ang ribbon ay di masaydong intricate ang design. he he!

    yung dance for the dead….wala naman nabuhay na patay? he he! just kidding!

    yung yakult, gusto ko iuwi! he he!

    like rob, ngayon ko lang narinig yung “yukata.”

    1. i want to wear a yukata one day, babagay kaya? hahaha! πŸ™‚

      gusto mo din pala ng yakult; have you ever tried sebastian’s ice cream yakult-flavored dyan sa pinas? sarap! mayroon sa glorietta 4 fastfood at trinoma. i don’t know perhaps, mayroon din dyan malapit sa paranaque sa place nyo.

  5. hello, doc gelo.

    very nice. very nice people and their culture. i love the japanese garb. very mysterious ang dating and yet they can blend ha ha with others.

  6. i want to wear a kimono as much as i want to wear an abaya, they all look good and I wonder how I will look in a kimono with the ribbon tie behind hehehe, ganon pala yun may distinction.

  7. docgelo, ang galing ng picture of the jap family wearing kimono. ang galing! the photos are all great but this one stands out. thanks for sharing!

  8. So fascinating. Felt like I watched a beautiful travel show after reading this entry and looking at your photos. Their colorful yukata looks like a very expensive gift ensemble with ribbons. I want to wear one too.

  9. How timely! I wore a yukata while inside my hotel in Tokyo and another one in a Kyoto ryokan. Very comfortable especially during the summer heat! I couldn’t just imagine wearing those wooden flip-flop they use – looks hurtful to use all day!

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