Tag Archives: japanese culture

Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival 2013

Yes, I made it here two years in a row. I am impressed by how on top of this I was. I finally have it programmed into my calendar: the third Sunday of August (okay, getting it into Google Calendar was a challenge in its own right, but that’s another matter), And to add to the stupendousness, this year I brought the real camera, so the photos are halfway decent (the other half has to do with my lack of photographic wonder skills. Photoshop Elements can only correct so much).

We were lucky enough to have another beautiful, if windy, day this year. The taiko drummers and the children doing traditional dances were fine, but the koto players needed volunteers from the audience to hold the music open.

Taiko drummers.

Kogen Taiko. It’s a lot like the photo I took last year—but this year it’s in focus!

Children doing traditional Japanese dances.

Dancers from Sansei Yonsei Kai. Maybe the color of the kimono depends on the age of the dancer? The one in white was definitely younger than the others.

Koto players.

Sakura Kai (and brave, music-holding volunteers).

I ended up seated under the same tree as last year. If you’re willing to sit on mulch, it’s a great location for viewing the stage. The tree looked much healthier this year, and almost none of its leaves had been devoured. (yay!).

This was a popular kimono design. I have no idea if it signifies something, or if it was being sold on the grounds and was a popular souvenir, but several people, especially children, were wearing it. Note that the woman next to him is holding one too.


I don’t have much interest in the martial arts generally, but I caught the kyudo (Japanese archery) demonstration. Unfortunately, still photos don’t do it much justice. If I’m remembering archery from high school PE correctly, we held the bow and pulled the bowstring towards our heads. I don’t know exactly what these archers were doing, but it looked as if they held the bowstring steady (it’s caught by a little “hook” on their gloves) and pushed the bow forward.


Archer from Minnesota Kyudo Renmei.

The remodeling of the Japanese garden that had been underway during the festival last year was completed this spring. Indeed, much of the reason I went this year was to check out the garden. Which, yes, I could have done for most of this summer, but did I? I need that extra bit of motivation. And now that I’ve seen it, I need to make myself go back and go through it when there aren’t hundreds of other people sharing it with me. Any empty space you see in these photos are a testament to lucky photo timing on my part (quick, while no one’s standing there!) and to the garden’s designers, who made it so easy to hide so many people in such a small space. A koto player and a shakuhachi player were alternating performances on the half hour. I enjoyed their playing, but with nowhere to sit down, I was only able to hear parts of their performances.

Stone slab bridge.

That bridge seemed to be slanted ever-so-slightly towards the water—eep!

jgrdnstatuething_jllf2013 jgrdnwaterfall_jllf2013

Koto player in the Japanese garden.

Fern Davidson, playing the koto in the Japanese Garden.

I couldn’t stay for the lantern lighting ceremony, though. With the taiko performance always scheduled at the beginning of the festival, and the lantern lighting ceremony always the finale, apparently I’m doomed to miss something I like. But the reward for coming early is being able to get steamed pork buns (yum!) before the vendor sells out, so it’s not an utter tragedy.

Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival 2012

This post is later than expected: I went to the Como Park Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival last Sunday and it’s taken me almost a week to get around to saying anything about it. It’s an annual celebration, held roughly around the time of Obon in Japan, although our festival is more a general celebration of Japanese culture.

The festival ran from about 3:00 to after sunset, although I left well before the end. It was frustrating: I wanted to see the taiko drummers, who were the first performance of the day, but I also wanted to see the lanterns set to float on the pond, and that’s at dusk. The lanterns lost out.

taiko performance

Kogen Taiko

I had a good seat for the taiko performance; my cell phone camera just isn’t doing it justice. There may very well be a kind of musical performance that asks for more energy from the musicians than taiko drumming, but I can’t think of what it might be. At least we had pleasant weather for the festival, almost cool. The tree I was sitting under might have disagreed about how things were going: there was almost no shade because the leaves had been eaten to lace. If that’s a sign of Japanese beetle infestation, it’s bitterly appropriate.

I don’t think I knew that Como Park’s Japanese garden was as large as it is, but I haven’t been there in years and perhaps they’ve expanded it. There was some kind of construction project going on there (you can see the fenced-off area behind the taiko drummers) which is supposed to open by next spring. Maybe I’ll get back here for next year’s festival and see it. In the meantime, there was still plenty to admire:

Japanese garden

Japanese garden

Japanese garden - pond

Plus all the stuff I didn’t get pictures of (there comes a point where I give up on trying to use the cell phone camera and just vow to bring the real camera in the future). A violin-and-koto group. Lots of vendors of Japanese food and drinks, both fresh and packaged. Games for children, including one in which you try to catch a goldfish with a paper scoop and flip it into a cup before your scoop dissolves—succeed and you win the fish. Or if you don’t want to run the risk of having to bring home a new pet, take the kids to the storytelling booth. There were martial arts demonstrations: I remember aikido and archery, but I’m sure there were others. Traditional arts and crafts like bonsai, ikebana, and saori weaving were demonstrated. I didn’t take any of the brochures offered by the Japan America Society of Minnesota, but I probably looked really interested in them. Actually, I was admiring the crocheted sushi paperweights holding them down. I really must a) make it back to next year’s festival, and b) try to stay long enough to see the lantern-lighting.