Bonsai, martial arts, singing, dancing, drumming, delicious food and other aspects of Japanese culture will take center stage at the annual Como Park Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, a family-friendly event, reminiscent of Japan’s annual Obon holiday, on Sunday, August 21, 2011 on the grounds of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park.
The Lantern Lighting Festival encompasses Japanese tradition through music, dance, crafts, martial arts and lanterns. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory grounds will open at 3 p.m., and live entertainment in the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden and on the main stage will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Entertainment will include taiko drumming groups, koto (Japanese sitar), shakuhachis (bamboo flutes), traditional and contemporary dance and singing. Martial arts, Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), and a host of other cultural exhibits and demonstrations will line several paths through the grounds. Savory Japanese food and dozens of culturally-related items will also be for sale.
The theme of this year’s Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival is ‘Kizuna – Standing with Japan.’ Kizuna translates to “unity” in Japanese. This theme was chosen as a way of expressing the grief and honoring those lost in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters, as well as supporting those still affected by the aftermath.
Celebrating the Lantern Lighting Festival and learning about Japanese culture is a way to connect with the Japanese, whose sense of solidarity has moved people from different parts of the country and from many other parts of the world to volunteering to help with the rebuilding process. There will be several short talks in regards to the earthquake and tsunami throughout the night. In addition, there will be individuals on hand to take donations that will go to Red Cross relief work in Japan.
The day will culminate at dusk with the main event — the lantern lighting. Stone lanterns as well as hundreds of floating paper lanterns throughout the Japanese Garden pond and the Frog Pond will create a vision of peacefulness and harmony to commemorate the dead.
Proceeds from the 2011 Lantern Lighting Festival will help provide the final dollars needed for the soon-to-break ground Japanese Gardens Experience. This new wing of to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory will provide permanent gallery space for the Como’s nationally-regarded Bonsai collection, and improved access to the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden.
The Como Park Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, produced by Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Japan America Society of Minnesota, and Saint Paul Nagasaki Sister City Committee will be held on Sunday, August 21, 2011 from 3:00pm-9:00pm. Admission is $5.00 per adult, $3.00 per child 3-12 and Seniors 65+, and free for ages 2 and under. Free shuttle bus service will be available from the St. Paul Public School facility located at 1930 Como Avenue.
A short video of the festival has been produced and can be viewed online at http://youtu.be/C5MlL-BGmBU.