Foyle O-Bon Japanese festival returning to Playtrail in Derry

Children taking part in a previous Obon Festival at the Playtrail in Derry. (Photo Gavan Connolly GC Photographics)
Children taking part in a previous Obon Festival at the Playtrail in Derry. (Photo Gavan Connolly GC Photographics)

Derry is to get its very own ‘Little Tokyo’ this month, the organisers of the Foyle O-Bon Festival have said.

The popular Japanese Festival will take place on the evening of Saturday, June 9, and everyone has been invited to the Playtrail as the Japanese music, arts and culture festival returns for a third year.

In Japan, O-Bon is one of the most important annual festivals, combining family, food, dance and taiko drumming and culminating in a three day feast of colour, rhythm and light.

Foyle O-Bon was born of a desire to share Japanese taiko, culture and tradition while creating a meaningful family festival for all.

It is also designed to recognise the ever growing number of Japanese and shared heritage families in the North West.

Fiona Umetsu, Artistic Director said: “Foyle O-Bon festival truly has something for everyone.

“From 5pm, the Playtrail becomes Little Tokyo with a host of stage entertainment and intercultural activities- a feast of traditional Japanese music, song and dance.”

Local people are being invited to come along to hear the power of the Taiko drums, as well as the shinobue flute, marimba and harp.

“At its heart is Taiko, traditional Japanese drumming which is dynamic, energetic and loud!

“There will be performances from local and international Taiko players, including our young, and not so young, students who have be preparing for this all year,” Fiona said, adding:

“The Festival is the highlight of our year round cultural outreach programme where participants of all ages and backgrounds have been learning and taking part in the fields of Japanese dance, song, taiko drumming and Manga art.

“They come together at the festival to showcase their skills and celebrate their achievements.

“Specially choreographed dance will accompany pieces written just for the festival, as well as traditional Bon Odori dance. “

Alongside the music there will be a wide range of workshops and activities for all ages.

These workshops will include martial art demonstrations, traditional Kimono dress-up, storytelling, Haiku poetry, origami, cookery demos and lots more. Food and refreshments will be available.

“The festival will end with a beautiful lantern ceremony through the grounds of the Playtrail,” Fiona said.

Foyle O-Bon festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All and Derry City and Strabane District Council Festival Fund.

Gates open at 5pm, and tickets cost £5 for adults, £3 for children, with under 5s admitted free.

Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com or the Playtrail, The Diamond Centre, Claudy and at the door on the evening.

“Finally,” Fiona said,”we are hoping for a wonderfully dry and sunny evening but you know, come prepared!”