Heritage on a Plate

Fun and Food at the Penang Yosakoi Festival

Traditions and Culture, FestivalsDanny MahesComment

Hello, friends! I was really excited to attend the Penang Yosakoi festival this weekend. There's a small community of local and expat Japanese here and it's very exciting to experience their culture as well as the food!

A Short History of Yosakoi

So what is Yosakoi and what's this festival about? Yosakoi is a type of energetic line-dance invented in Kochi, Japan in the 50's. It's become one of the biggest festivals in Japan and local enthusiasts organise a festival in Penang every year. It's a smaller affair but no less passionate and fun. If you've heard of Para-Para or Poco-Poco in Indonesia, then you're on the right track.

Dancers from all over Malaysia including dance troupes, theatre groups and school cultural clubs train for months to present their dance at the Esplanade, Penang. Like Brazilian Carnival, it's a beautiful cacophony of music, colour, joy and celebration.

hop penang yosakoi festival 2018 1
hop penang yosakoi soran 2018 2
hop penang yosakoi festival 2018 dancers 3

Food Trucks and More

If you're following us on Instagram, you'd know I was very, very excited about trying some Japanese food at the festival. Unfortunately, this year seems to be a bit slow on the food front as there were only a handful of food trucks and stalls. It is understandable as the community is very small and most of these events are run on a volunteer basis, so people may just not have had the time to prepare traditional Japanese snacks.

That being said there were a couple of interesting food trucks with Japan-inspired treats. My first stop was the good folks at The Skewer Truck, who do yakitori-style skewers with a side of cili padi and garlic sauce. It was good. Real good. The perfect carnival food - pork, lamb and shrimp cooked over a hot grill and garnished with some sweet and spicy heat. I also got some Tao Pok, which is fried tofu with cheese filling.

 Not pictured: the smile on my face

Not pictured: the smile on my face

 The Monday Blue mocktail was delicious and appropriately named :P

The Monday Blue mocktail was delicious and appropriately named :P

One of my favourite snacks is Takoyaki - grilled batter balls with tiny octopus filling (thanks, Jusco!). How can you go wrong with Takoyaki? Unfortunately, I jostled the box it came in before taking the picture. Please enjoy the resulting modern art below.

 Behold the multitude of my failures

Behold the multitude of my failures

A Growing Cultural Presence

The Japanese community has a long but challenging history in Penang. For many Penangites, their memory of World War 2 is still fresh and cultural festivals like this serve as a healing bridge to bring two nations together again in a time of peace. I'm very interested in the history of the Japanese community in Penang and I've been doing some reading to that end. I'll create a blog series for it when I feel that story is ready to be told.

Have you been to the Yosakoi Soran festival in Kochi? And do you want to know more about the history of the Japanese community in Penang? Let us know in the comments.

In the meantime, if you're having a challenging Monday, here's a picture of kids chasing bubbles in the sunset :)

hop penang yosakoi festival bubbles