WHAT: Japanese Festival
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, September 4
WHERE: Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., south St. Louis
COST: $16 for adults, $8 for Members, $8 for children ages 3-12, (Cashless transactions only) free for Member children
SPONSORS: Nidec Motor Corporation, Safety National, and Toyota.
(ST. LOUIS) Japanese Festival, a beloved St. Louis tradition, returns to the Missouri Botanical Garden this Labor Day weekend.
The 46th festival will feature sumo wrestling, martial arts demonstrations, calligraphy demonstrations, a magic storyteller, dance performances, an expanded food court with authentic cuisine, and candlelight walks in the Japanese Garden.
Since 1977, the Garden has proudly hosted this unique event in one of the largest Japanese gardens in North America. A prolific collaboration with several local Japanese-American organizations, it provides authentic Japanese music, art, dance, food, and entertainment for thousands of visitors each year.
The three-day Labor Day weekend is filled with sights, sounds, and experiences for the entire family, including martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming, and traditional Japanese fare that is widely considered the largest Japanese Festival in the US.
The 2023 Japanese Festival is Saturday, September 2, and Sunday, September 3, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday, September 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at mobot.org. Admission is $16 for adults ages 13 and over and $8 for members (cashless transactions only) and non-member children. Member children (ages 12 and under) are free. Visit www.mobot.org/japanesefestival for details.
Seiwa-en, the “garden of pure, clear harmony and peace,” takes center stage for the weekend’s festivities. A lively opening ceremony kicks off the celebration at 10 a.m. Saturday morning in the Japanese Garden, featuring a performance by the St. Louis Osuwa Taiko drummers and St. Louis Okinawa Eisa.
The Garden once again welcomes sumo wrestling, a fan-favorite feature.
Sumo, Japan’s national sport, is a form of full-contact wrestling. It originated in ancient times as religious performances to the Shinto gods. Many ancient rituals are still followed. The basic rules of sumo are simple: the losing wrestler (rikishi) is the one who first touches the floor with something other than the sole of his foot or leaves the ring (dohyo) before his opponent.
This year’s sumo lineup includes Hiroki, who has won two division champion titles in Japanese professional sumo and had a starring role in the globally-acclaimed Netflix series Sanctuary, Ramy, who has won titles on four continents and was the No. 1 Egyptian competitor for 10 years in a row, and Mendee, a two-time U.S. Sumo Open champion and former World Sumo Champion.
The three sumo champions will demonstrate their craft two times per day, at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and at noon and 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
The Garden will welcome a new performer this year, magic story artist Yasu Ishida. Combining traditional Japanese theatre, music, origami, magic, and storytelling; Yasu Ishida will guide you to the enchanting land of Japan. Yasu will have eight performances throughout the weekend.
Japanese Festival will offer an array of other demonstrations, activities, and tours for all ages and interests. This year, more performances will be indoors to give visitors a chance to escape the heat.
Visitors can see, and taste, Japanese Wagashi treats during demonstrations from Japanese candymaker Nobuyuki Kamiyama. Literally translating to “Japanese sweets,” Wagashi are formed from rice flour, sugar, and gelatinous agar into fantastic, whimsical, or just impossibly cute shapes.
Also traveling from Japan, arist Seiran Chiba demonstrate the art of Japanese calligraphy throughout the festival.
Watch martial arts demonstrations, a tea demonstration, and an Okashi cosplay fashion show.
The private Teahouse Island of the Japanese Garden will be open for guided public tours. Normally closed to the public, visitors can see the Garden’s soan, the farm hut-style teahouse, which was a gift from Missouri’s sister state of Nagano prefecture in Japan. Originally built in Japan, the teahouse was reassembled on-site by Japanese craftsmen and dedicated during a Shinto ceremony in 1977. Visitors can also see a snow-viewing lantern, yukimi-doro, a gift from St. Louis’ sister city of Suwa, Japan. Teahouse Island tour tickets are $15 each (cashless transactions only).
Shop for souvenirs and other Asian-inspired merchandise at the Japanese marketplace and the Garden Gate Shop. Sample Japanese cuisine at the outdoor food court, including sushi, yakisoba noodles, Japanese sandwiches, pancake-like okonomiyaki, and green tea ice cream.
On Saturday and Sunday evening, learn about Obon, the festival when the spirits of the dead return to spend time with the living, by participating in a Toro Nagashi ceremony. Lanterns are inscribed with the names of those deceased, then lit and set afloat as a way of accompanying the spirits as they depart for another year.
At 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, lanterns, which can be purchased on site, will be lit and set afloat on the lake at Seiwa-en.
Please note: No trams, free hours, or early morning walking hours on signature event weekends.
The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis, accessible from Interstate 44 at the Vandeventer exit and from Interstate 64 at the Kingshighway North and South exit. Free parking is available on site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer.
Members help support the Garden’s operations and world-changing work in plant science and conservation. Learn more at www.mobot.org/membership
The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 164 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.