The Yosakoi event originated from the city of Kochi on the island of Shikoku in 1954 after the war. The purpose was to promote the island’s tourism and economy by adapting a local traditional folk dance called the Awa Odori into a dance parade that allows everyone to join and have fun at night, as Yosakoi means “Come at Night” in the local dialect.
Yosakoi gained in popularity amongst the young and the young at heart, because the ‘rules’ were simple:
You had to use the Naruko clappers to dance
You could choreograph the dance in any style - hip hop, rock’n’roll, modern, Chinese, traditional Japanese, tango... any style at all
But the music MUST include the phrase of the song, “Yosakoi Naruko Dancing” that is based on a traditional folk-song of the area - Yosakoi Bushi.
In 1992, a young University student brought the Yosakoi concept to his hometown, but instead of using the Yosakoi Bushi song, they had to use the “Soran Bushi” traditional music of Hokkaido to promote Hokkaido instead. And that was how the Yosakoi Soran Festival began.
Today, both versions of Yosakoi are practiced, but each festival uses either the Kochi Yosakoi or the Yosakoi Soran. It has a huge following and the popularity of the event has spread to virtually the whole of Japan with over a million people attending each one of Japan’s 3 largest Yosakoi events - the original Kochi Yosakoi; the Yosakoi Soran in Sapporo, Hokkaido and the Super Yosakoi in Harajuku Tokyo. Penang is the only Yosakoi Festival that we know of, that allows BOTH versions of the Yosakoi in the Festival.
Link to videos of Yosakoi in Japan
The Origin of Yosakoi in Japan
History of Penang Yosakoi Parade
On March 11th 2011, the Tohoku Earthquake measuring Richter 9.5 hit the North-East coast of Japan, claiming the lives of over 24,000, displaced around a quarter of million people and caused billions of dollars of damage. The earthquake was the 4th largest to be recorded in history, it MOVED the whole island of Honshu by 2.4m and shifted the earth on its axis by 10~25cm!
Shocked by the devastation, the members of the Pink Hibiscus Club in Penang decided that they wanted to help raise funds to help the victims of Japan. In 10 days, they organised a fundraising event that saw tens of thousands of Penangnites turning out to donate. Thanks to the people of Penang, the organisers were able to send over 1.6 million ringgit to Japan through the Japanese Consulate.
Overwhelmed and ever grateful for the generosity and show of sympathy, solidarity and support for the people of Japan, the Pink Hibiscus Club worked to repay the kindness by creating an event that used ideas from Japan to help the Penang people showcase Malaysian creativity, talent and generosity. The event known as the Penang Yosakoi Parade was thus launched in March 2013.
Since then, the Penang Yosakoi Parade has been held annually on the 2nd Saturday of March on a date close to the anniversary of March 11th. It is now participated by hundreds of participants from Penang and surrounding states in an evening of dance and healthy, Japan-inspired cultural activities.
Past Penang Yosakoi Events
Yosakoi dance is the very reason for our event, but we also have lots of activities and attractions to keep our audience entertained. Throughout the years we have introduced new elements to Penang Yosakoi to make this a truly evolving and exciting Japanese themed event!
2013 First ever event with featured horse carriage rides and Little Japan in Penang bazaars and Cosplay Parade.
2014 In addition to a colourful Samba Team from Tokyo, attractions also featured an Obakeyashiki - Japanese Ghost House, Tsunahiki - Tug-o-war and Cosplay Competition.
2016 Our iconic Yagura was put to good use with 2 hours of non-stop Obon odori where we taught the audiences 8 different types of popular Bon Odori from all over Japan. Also joined by the first Zumba parade with over 250 participants from the PWDC!
2017 Featuring Awa Odori - the precursor of the Yosakoi from the island of Shikoku, participants also joined in to create the longest outdoor Conga line! Also featured a singing competition to promote Japanese style artists!
2018 Featured Hanagasa Ondo from Yamagata prefecture, the saffron flower-adorned hats lead the way for the parade, while first-ever skateboard competition was held in celebration of the 5 new sports indoctrinated for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Plus we had a mochitsuki demo and tasting session courtesy of the Japanese Consulate.
2019 saw numerous new attractions - a Light of the East structure created by Equatorial Academy, River of Lights Toronagashi, Charity 2nd hand sales, an appearance by Miss Penang Yosakoi 2019 and the Penang Sakura 333 project to create Penang's own Sakura season. We even created Penang's own dance called the Penang Sakura Ondo in a collaboration between Malaysian and Japanese musicians. Watch the video and learn the dance so that you can join us in the parade the next time! Click on this link for the video.
2020 was unfortunately cancelled at the last minute in consideration of the health of our participants as covid began to spread in Malaysia. While we lament the lost opportunities of the past 2 years, it has been an impetus for us to evolve and improve for the better...
And so we come to 2022... We have boldly declared that Yosakoi Penang is back with a vengeance, with a new date, a new location and renewed focus on international culture, diversity and heritage. We're back to showcase how Penang creatively celebrates Malaysia Day as a community in unity and strength! So see you all on 17th September 2022 at Karpal Singh Drive!