Dancers from Japan jazz up Orchard Road

At the parade in Orchard Road, nearly 200 dancers, including top Awa Odori performers (left), entertained the crowds who later joined them.
At the parade in Orchard Road, nearly 200 dancers, including top Awa Odori performers (left), entertained the crowds who later joined them.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

It is part of two-day event to mark 50 years of S'pore-Japan diplomatic ties

A wide grin on her face, Madam Wong Lee Yue, 75, spontaneously danced in Orchard Road with an Awa Odori dancer from Japan. "They asked me, so I joined in," said the housewife, who was with her two children. "I'm happy; I like it."

Last night, Orchard Road was unusually empty of cars. Instead, it was taken over by pedestrians and performers in the SJ50 Friendship Ceremony and Parade.

The parade was the highlight of the SJ50 Matsuri, a two-day event held to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Japan.

At the event, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Josephine Teo called Japan a close and longstanding friend of Singapore.

At the parade, nearly 200 dancers, including top Awa Odori dancers from Tokushima and Koenji in Japan, as well as performers from the Japanese Association in Singapore, danced their way from Lucky Plaza to Paragon.

Awa Odori, which originated in Tokushima prefecture around 400 years ago, is an annual dance festival held in Japan to welcome the souls of ancestors.

The audience was later invited to join the dancers as barricades lining the road were opened up.

Computer programmer Suresh Krishasamy, 33, thought the performance was "very refreshing".

"Usually you only see this online, on YouTube," he said. "You don't usually see this many people participating in processions of a different culture in Singapore."

Engineer Toshi Kohara, 41, who watched the parade with his wife and daughter, also enjoyed the event. "We were interested to see the Awa Odori dance as we have watched it in Japan; it made people feel happier," said Mr Kohara, who moved to Singapore in January last year for work.

Orchard Road was closed from 5pm to 10pm yesterday for the event, which also included a cosplay fashion talk show and a Japan quiz show. The event ends today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Dancers from Japan jazz up Orchard Road'. Print Edition | Subscribe