This September it will be time for the biannual Japanese Bon Festival at Memphis Botanic Garden. Japanese Bon festivals have been taking place for over 500 years. Historically, these festivals celebrate ones ancestors, but in modern times and in places outside of Japan, bon festivals simply present an indulgent exposition of colorful and lively Japanese culture. No matter the meaning, you and your family will find the Japanese Garden at MBG filled with engaging hands-on activities, cultural entertainment, and definitely some movin’ and groovin’.
Here are a few things to know about MBG’s Japanese Bon Festival, so you can be fully prepared:
1. Seek the Candyman! As you stroll the festival, keep your eyes open for Masaji Terasawa, world famous candy artist. Amezaiku is the Japanese word for this unique artistry of working with warm sugar taffy. Masaji Terasawa amazes you and your children with his quiet, creative movements and props, as he dances his way around the crowd, all the while sculpting pure sugar with mini-tools. Watch for his stunning dragon dance. Lucky children in the front of the encircling crowd may receive one of his edible works of art! You’ll recognize him when not enshrouded by a crowd by his traditional Japanese garb and wheeled cart. You can even find him on Wikipedia!
2. Start on the Right Foot! You may not feel totally comfortable in traditional Japanese footwear like the flip-flop-esque geta, but make sure you wear something easy to walk in. With all of the fun things to do you’ll surely be here at least an hour (but we hope you stay longer). Guests are invited to dance the traditional bon dances, and they’re so easy and fun that you definitely want your boogie shoes!
3. Don’t Be a Wallflower. We have plenty of flowers at the Garden! Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the games, tea ceremony, trying on a yukata (casual, lightweight kimono), and participating in the Bon dance. Definitely be patient though, as lines may occur at our popular kids craft stations, tea ceremony, and Sekisui food tents. You can find dancing happening at the stage in the morning and at the end of the festival. This is really the best part of the festival. The choreographed dances are easier than line dancing! The steps are simple, repetitive, and some have special meanings. One in particular represents the hardworking coal-miner, as dancers move as if they were digging, hanging a lantern, and wiping sweat from their brow.
4. Amuse Your Muse. Try to catch as many shows as possible on the stage – from the booming Fushu Daiko drummers to the anime-inspired “cosplay” (costumed play) characters and martial artists. Your taste buds will appreciate the sushi and Japanese snacks. Bring a few extra dollars for food and Japanese gifts at the Marketplace. Perhaps you will be inspired by the bonsai and koi pond experts to impart a bit of Japanese culture in your own hobbies.
5. A Night for Grown-Ups. So, if the big daytime crowd is not quite your style, check out the Opening Night Reception on Friday night from 5:30 – 8 pm. Nosh on sushi provided by Sekisui, watch a taiko performance, and be part of a centennial tree planting to honor the Tidal Basin Cherry trees. For this you need reservations – call 636-4131. Tickets are $20 for MBG Members/$25 for non-members.
The Japanese Festival Family Day at Memphis Botanic Garden is Saturday, September 8, 2012 from 10 am – 4 pm. Admission is $5 for members, $10 for non-members.