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SAITAMA

Beat the heat with Southeast Asian tradition

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

No doubt that those unable to take a few days off during the Bon holidays are really feeling the heat and impatiently awaiting a vacation that might not happen until New Year’s.

Unlike in Japan, however, people in many Southeast Asian countries celebrate the New Year during a much warmer month, the holiday occurs in mid-April according to some lunar calendars. Thais, Cambodians, Laotians and Chinese living in the Yunnan region, around that time of the year traditionally welcomed the New Year by pouring scented water onto other people in a display of respect.

Those who have not yet visited Thailand or Cambodia and experienced this cleansing ritual will get a chance to this weekend — and won’t need a plane ticket.

From Friday, Saitama Super Arena will host the Mizukake Matsuri & World Festa on its grounds.

For three days, everyone is invited to experience the centuries-old “Songkran” water festival, which will double as a fantastic escape from the summer heat. People will be invited to splash water on each other, cups will be provided.

The festival will also feature folk dancing and other performances by groups from Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Participants will also be able to savor the taste of ethnic or traditional foods, including those of Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Egyptian cuisine. An international folk market will also be held.

The Mizukake Matsuri & World Festa will take place at Keyaki Hiroba, a square in front of the facilities of Saitama Super Arena in Chuo-ku, Saitama, on Aug. 9-11 from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. The venue is accessible via JR Saitama Shintoshin Station. The Songkran portion of the event will take place twice daily from 11 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. till 3 p.m. Participation is free of charge. For more information, call 048-601-1122 or visit www.saitama-arena.co.jp/mizukake13.