Summer’s end is marked by two popular Japanese Festivals, in St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri. 

2018 Opening Ceremony - image by Kevin Dingman

It's the most wonderful time of the year

The summer is winding down, and festival season is approaching. Two big Japanese Festivals are coming up, and we're in our final week of preparations! Each year we spend the first two weekends of September taking part in festivals in St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri, where visitors experience the rich culture of Japan without using a passport. Activities range from traditional music and dance to martial arts demonstrations, kimono fashion, bonsai and ikebana displays, storytelling, and more. The gardens are also open during the evening hours to enjoy a candlelit walk. Visitors will also have the chance to see and hear a lot of taiko!

This weekend we head to Missouri Botanical Garden for the 42nd annual Japanese Festival in St. Louis. Touted as one of the largest Japanese festivals in the country, Labor Day weekend will be packed with with activities for all audiences. This year, we're especially excited to see the return of sumo, Japan's national sport. Sumo is a form of full-contact wrestling, and visitors will have the chance to see three rikishi (professional wrestlers) perform matches and demonstrations throughout the weekend. In homage to the sport, we will be performing our own composition, Sumo in St. Louis, to celebrate its return to the garden.

Missouri Botanical Garden Japanese Festival
Saturday, August 31 - Monday, September 2
*All performances take place at Cohen Amphitheater except Opening Ceremony
Saturday - 11:00 AM Opening Ceremony (Yagura Stage)
Saturday - 7:00 PM
Sunday - 2:00 PM  and 7:00 PM
Monday - 2:00 PM

The weekend of September 6-8 we travel to Springfield, Missouri for the 24th annual Japanese Fall Festival, located at the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden in Nathanael Greene-Close Memorial Park. Springfield has celebrated a long relationship with its sister city Isesaki, Japan, and together they put on a festival that brings both traditional and pop Japanese culture to the Midwest. This year’s headliners include Zoomadanke, a lively duo that blends kendama, a traditional cup and ball toy, with music and dance, along with storyteller and magician Yasu Ishida, who combines Japanese theater, origami, magic and storytelling, making Japan come alive right here in the Midwest. We will be performing throughout the festival weekend.

Springfield Japanese Fall Festival
Friday, September 6 - Sunday, September 8
*Performance times are approximate
Friday - 6:10 PM Opening Ceremony
Friday - 7:20 PM
Saturday - 3:00 PM (with workshop) and 7:00 PM
Sunday - 2:30 PM


See the Class Recital Sunday, September 1st

2016 class recital. Photo by Kevin Dingman.Join us at Cohen Amphitheater at Missouri Botanical before our Sunday evening performance as our adult all-levels class performs their class-end recital! Students have been working hard this summer, learning the parts of a traditional Osuwa Daiko piece, and are ready to show off everything they've learned. Help us to cheer them on!

Adult All-Levels Class Recital
Missouri Botanical Garden - Cohen Amphitheater
Sunday, September 1 - 6:45 PM

Seasonal Celebrations:
Bon Odori

Obon, or simply Bon, is a centuries-old Japanese custom honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors. The custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday, when people return to their hometowns to visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of the ancestors are believed to revisit the household altars. The annual late-summer festival has been celebrated in Japan for over 500 years and typically includes a dance, known as Bon Odori. 

Bon Odori is a folk dance performed during the Bon festival to welcome the spirits of the dead. The dance and music varies from region to region, and sometimes incorporates local minyo folk songs. For the dance, people generally line up in a circle around the yagura, a high wooden stage that serves as a bandstand for musicians during the Bon festival. Participants will dance in a circle around the stage, accompanied by taiko and other music to welcome the spirits of the dead. Today, the original religious meaning has faded, but the dance remains a popular symbol of late summer. 

Bon Odori is a popular event at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Japanese Festival. The accompanying recording may sound familiar: it’s a blend of the popular festival music Matsuri Taiko with a local favorite, Meet Me in St. Louis, and was recorded for the festival by members of St. Louis Osuwa Taiko and the children’s choral group of the St. Louis Japanese Language School. Our members also provide live accompaniment on taiko during the festival. Be sure to check it out this weekend!

Image by Belleville News-Democrat

See you at the dashi!

Festival-goers often comment on hearing the sound of drumming throughout the garden, even when we're not performing. That sound is coming from the dashi! Stop by the Spink Pavilion throughout the weekend to visit with us, and to learn more about taiko, our group, and to try out the drums!

Visitors can also be part of the dashi procession, when we parade the float through the garden, accompanied by music and dance. Help us pull the dashi, and dance with the musicians, as we take the float through the garden to Cohen Amphitheater.  To take part in the fun, meet us at Spink Pavilion at 1:30 PM Sunday and Monday as we prepare to take the float the Cohen Amphitheater for our afternoon performances.

We are a non-profit group that performs the art of taiko around the St. Louis area and the world.
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10734 Trenton Ave. | St. Louis, MO 63132
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