The Biggest Bon Odori Outside Japan: Off to Malaysia with Tomohiko Sato!
Celebrating 40 years of bon odori in Kuala Lumpur
When I first visited Kuala Lumpur’s annual bon odori event at the invitation of a friend last year, all I knew going in was that it was the largest bon odori event outside Japan. In Malaysia, I was amazed to see people of all races and nationalities in yukata and jimbei dancing around the tower — a clear example of Japanese culture taking on a thriving life of its own even outside the nation’s borders. One thing was for sure: I would be back in 2016!
As it happens, 2016 is the 40th “Bon Odori Dance Festival in Kuala Lumpur” (as the official name has it). The event is held jointly by the Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur, the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur, and the Japanese embassy, and is now one of the highlights of the Malaysian summer calendar, drawing 35,000 guests every year. The scheduling changes year by year due to Ramadan, and this year’s event was held on July 23.
The venue was the Kompleks Sukan Negara Shah Alam, a stadium in Shah Alam, Selangor, just outside Kuala Lumpur itself. For this Japanese visitor, the trip from Kuala Lumpur felt like going from Tokyo to Yokohama.