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Japanese Festival – Nihon Matsuri 2022 @ Stadium Bukit Jalil, KL

The past two years have been tough for businesses, especially those involving events. But with restrictions now lifted and most sectors essentially back to ‘normal’, events are back in full swing. In fact, like the ‘revenge shopping’ phenomena (where people splurge to make up for not being able to spend during the pandemic), I think we’re having ‘revenge attending’, where crowds are flocking back to events after months of repressing their need for social activities.

I’m still cautious about going to crowded places (not just because of COVID, but also because I don’t like people in general. LOL). But there was a “Nihon Matsuri” (Japanese festival) happening in town that the Hubs expressed interest in attending after seeing banners of it along the highway. It didn’t look like a very big scale event (unlike Bon Odori three weeks ago, which saw a 50,000-strong turnout), and it was going to be held in an open-air space ie the carpark at Stadium Bukit Jalil, so we thought we’d check it out over the weekend.

The event, organized by local events and comms company Trumpet International, was held over five days from July 27 to July 31. We went on the second last day, which was a Saturday night. In retrospect, I think this was a bad choice, because although it was an open-air venue and it was not ‘packed’ in that sense, there was still a massive weekend crowd. There was also a RM10 entry fee. For the price, I think it would have been nice if they had given us a complimentary bottle of mineral water or a cheap fan or something, at least.

So what was there to see at the festival?

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The first thing we saw at the entrance was a series of torii, or traditional archways found at Shinto temples, complete with ‘blooming’ cherry blossoms, as well as Japanese-style lanterns. It looked great for photography, but since there were so many people queueing up to go in, it was difficult to get a good shot without people in the frame.

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An Instagram-bf hard at work capturing his partner’s photo
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The organisers had spaced everything far apart so there was lots of room for people to mill about, which helped with crowd control in some areas. When I wasn’t comfortable with an area because there were too many people clustered there, I at least had the option to move to another space, which would have been difficult in a closed setting.

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Standing alone in a corner was a makeshift sushi bar, serving omakase for RM349+ per pax.

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The plebs, on the other hand, had the choice of regular tarpaulin booths selling street snacks such as Sushi, tempura, takoyaki, bento, and grilled meat on skewers. The queues were extremely long, and I think most of them ran out of food by 9PM even though new visitors were still coming in.

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The festival’s central area featured cherry blossom ‘trees’ decorated with fairy lights, and raised wooden platforms for dining, giving the place a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) feel.

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Photo wall featuring a mix of traditional Japanese artwork and modern pop art.

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Another popular photo fixture featured rows of white lanterns. Japanese lanterns tend to be capsule-shaped compared to Chinese lanterns, which are usually spherical.

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There was a booth offering yukata rental services, and I saw many ladies walking around in beautiful, colourful dresses. There was also the occasional cosplayer.

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Ema (wooden plaque) board where visitors could hang up their wishes!
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We came at a good time and managed to catch two performances. The first was a Kendo performance with swords. It was meant to be a meditative performance, so there was no music. I think the idea was to showcase the beauty and grace in each movement, as the practitioners sliced through the air with their swords, sometimes swift, at times steady.

The second performance we watched was a Taiko performance. They even inserted some modern theatrical elements into it, playing out a storyline between the students and the master on the large drum.

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One more Instagrammable spot before leaving was the exit tunnel, which had hundreds of colourful paper wishes hanging from the ceiling.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad experience, but I definitely feel that they could have had more booths to justify the RM10 entry fee. There were about 20 food booths at most, and each had an almost hour-long queue; and there were only 2-3 game booths (which were all obviously crowded). Still, it was a nice activity to wile away time over the weekend, and we got to experience a slice of Japanese culture as well.

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