Over the past several weeks we have watched several major events be canceled for this summer and fall due to the ongoing and anticipated impact of the Coronavirus. After careful and thoughtful consideration, and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our community – including attendees, performers, vendors, volunteers, and staff – The Como Park Japanese Obon Festival will not take place on August 16, 2020 as previously announced. With the information available today, and the uncertainty surrounding very large gatherings, we cannot in good conscience proceed with the festival this year.
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, along with the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee (SPNSCC), and the Japan America Society of Minnesota (JASM), sincerely appreciate all the time, talent and support the community has provided to the festival over the past 21 years. We hope you will carry the spirit of the Obon Festival with you until we can be together again August 15, 2021
ABOUT OBON AND THE OBON FESTIVAL
According to Buddhist tradition and Japanese folk belief, the souls of the dead may interact with the living. At the time of Obon (typically mid-August), ancestral spirits are said to revisit their families for three days. Like the New Year’s holiday, Obon is an important family holiday, and people who have moved away from the family home will return to be with their parents or grandparents for the festivities. Families pay their respects at gravesites and put out offerings of food and drink on a tray (bon) before the household altar; they also light lanterns or small fires outside the house to guide the souls symbolically to the home. Neighborhood folk dances known as bon odori are held as part of the celebration of both family and community. On the last evening of Obon, lanterns again guide the spirits back to their resting place; in some communities these lanterns are released in the river to float down to the sea.
Beginning in 1998 as the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, the Como Park Japanese Obon Festival encompasses Japanese tradition through music, dance, crafts, martial arts and lanterns on the grounds of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. Entertainment includes taiko drumming groups, koto (Japanese sitar), shakuhachis (bamboo flutes), traditional and contemporary dance and singing. Martial arts, Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), origami demonstrations, and a host of other cultural exhibits and demonstrations line several paths through the grounds. Savory Japanese food and dozens of culturally related items are available for purchase.