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Dancers join hands for Japanese festival

JAPANESE and Cambodian dancers performed together to celebrate the Japanese festival of Bon Odori during celebrations at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Traditional drumming by members of the Cambodia Japan Cooperation Centre entertained guests before the opening ceremony, attended by members of the Japanese Embassy, Japanese Association, Centre of Japanese Language Studies and other non-profit groups.

Suzuki Yasujiro, the vice president of the Japanese Association in Cambodia, said the festival was normally celebrated each August in Japan. Buddhists believe the gates of hell are opened at this time, releasing spirits to visit their living relatives.

City workers return to their home towns to celebrate Bon Odori with their families, enjoying outdoor folk dancing.

“We make this an enjoyable event because many people come back from their work in cities. When we get together, we want to be happy together,” said Suzuki on Sunday.

“We like dancing and Cambodians also like dancing, so we have staged this happy event together in order to build more peace.” The festival was popular with children, he explained, and it’s a time to sample special Japanese delicacies and drinks.

Celebrations at the Cambodia Japan Cooperation Centre featured food stalls giving visitors an authentic taste of Japan.

Por Limeng, a 19-year-old student at the university’s Center of Japanese Language Studies, said that Bon Odori was similar to Cambodia’s Pchum Ben festival which also offered foods to the spirits of ancestors.

“I just learned about the festival recently, but at Pchum Ben we toss balls of rice to the spirits, and the Japanese have dancing instead,” he said.

He was one of about 40 student volunteers who dressed in traditional clothes to join in the Japanese folk dances. They also performed popular Cambodian folk dances and songs at the festival.

“When we dance, we meet more people, especially students from other universities,” said Por Limeng. “I think it’s just an entertaining event that helps Cambodia’s good relationship with the Japanese.”

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