Derry hosts Ireland’s first Japanese O-Bon Festival

A local demonstration of Japanese drumming skills.
A local demonstration of Japanese drumming skills.

On the evening of Saturday the 6th of June 2015, Derry will have the privilege of being the first city in Ireland or the UK to host its very own traditional O-Bon Japanese festival.

The event will take place at the Playtrail, off the Racecourse Road, from 7pm to 10.30pm.

Local children on parade in traditional Japense costumes.

Local children on parade in traditional Japense costumes.

The award winning community playground will be transformed into a Little Tokyo to celebrate one of the iconic festivals in the Japanese calendar.

Festival organiser Fiona Umetsu said: “At the heart of O-Bon is family, food, dancing and taiko drumming.

“It is a time of the year when everyone travels home to be with their families and celebrate both those who are here and those who have gone before.

“The whole festival is a feast of colour, rhythm and lights. We are so excited to be bringing one of the best loved Japanese summer festivals here to our shores.”

In the run up to the festival, participants of all ages and backgrounds will take part in an outreach programme of Japanese dance, song, taiko drumming and manga comic art.

All of the outreach programme participants will have the opportunity to contribute to a community showcase on the day of the festival.

The organising committee said they wanted to acknowledge the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for this element of the festival.

Crucial funding through their Intercultural Arts Programme meanwhile has been instrumental in making O-Bon 2015 possible.

On the evening itself, a host of local and international talent will display the wealth of Japanese art forms.

There will be taiko drumming performances, taiko taster sessions, dance and theatre performances and bon odori dancing for all.

There will be a manga exhibition and a manga draw-along for those interested in this Japanese comic art form.

There will be Arts and Crafts, face painting, traditional Japanese dance and games.

A dedicated group of volunteers will add to the whole spirit of the event with costumes, swords and a lot of enthusiasm. Watch out though, there might even be a ninja or two on the loose.

The festival will end with a stunning lantern ceremony as dusk falls. Visitors will have the chance to write the names of loved ones, messages of hope or send aspirations for the future away with the light and life of the lanterns as they are lit and displayed all around the beautiful grounds of The Playtrail woods and amphitheatre.

Tickets are on sale from The Playtrail, The Diamond Centre, Claudy and online from We Get Tickets. Capacity is limited so people are advised to book early.