Japanese cultural festival, Bon Odori, returns on 22 Jul 2023 despite controversy

Japanese culture has always been a large part of Malaysia, from their work ethics to sushi right to the media we consume, Japanese culture is everywhere in Malaysia. A large part of this also stems from the love we have for anime and cosplay. Speaking of, a way Malaysians honour the Japanese culture is by participating in the Bon Odori festival.

The Bon Odori festival in Malaysia has been held annually and it returns this year on 22 Jul 2023 at the Shah Alam National Sports Complex. The event is set to start around 4.30pm with the iconic drum performance and also features the Japanese “Wadaiko” performance.

Bon Odori Festival Malaysia
Credit – Malay Mail

The festival is sponsored by The Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur, The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur, and the Embassy of Japan. Originally initiated in 1977 as a modest gathering aimed at introducing Japanese culture to the children of expatriates, the event has since flourished into a highly anticipated annual spectacle attracting approximately 35,000 participants each year.

Bon Odori Festival
Credit – The Star

In 2022, a controversy surrounding the Bon Odori festival arose when Minister of Religious Affairs, Idris Ahmad, cautioned Muslims against participating in the annual summer event, arguing that it incorporated elements influenced by other religions. This statement received criticism from various quarters, including former diplomats. Idris Ahmad claimed that his remarks were based on research conducted by JAKIM, the Islamic development department.

However, the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, intervened by directing the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) to permit the festival to proceed. Furthermore, he instructed JAIS officials and representatives from the Shah Alam City Council to attend Bon Odori in order to personally observe the nature of the festivities.

So, get your kimonos out and get ready to celebrate Bon Odori this 22 July!

Pro tip: A FREE shuttle bus service consisting of 10 buses will be available between KTM Shah Alam Station and the stadium. However, please note that the departure and arrival times of the buses may not allign with the schedule of KTM trains.

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