***We will be selling ONLY ADVANCED TICKETS again in 2023***
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Music, martial arts, singing, dancing, drumming, delicious food, vendors, games, and other aspects of Japanese culture will be featured at the annual Como Park Japanese Obon Festival on the grounds of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory from 3:00pm – 9:00pm on Sunday, August 20. At the end of the Obon festival, lanterns are released onto the water so that the spirits can return to the other world.
Click HERE to purchase tickets
We will not be able to take cash at the gate for admission.
We will be selling ONLY ADVANCED TICKETS again in 2023. We will not be able to take cash at the gate for admission. If you arrive without your advanced ticket, we will have QR codes at the gate for you to scan with your phone that will lead you through the ticketing purchase process. You will need a credit card for this process.
We will be running a shuttle to the festival as well! Pick-up is at 1930 Como Ave. Last drop off is 10pm.
The Como Park Japanese Obon Festival, produced by Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Japan America Society of Minnesota, and Saint Paul Nagasaki Sister City Committee will be held on Sunday, August 20, 2023 from 3:00pm-9:00pm. Admission is $5.00 per adult (13+), $3.00 per child (ages 3-12) and Seniors (ages 65+), free for children under 3. No refunds.
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Obon is an important Japanese cultural and family holiday, at which ancestral spirits are said to revisit their families for three days. Families pay their respects at grave sites and put out offerings of food and drink on a tray before household altars. They also light lanterns or small fires outside the house to symbolically guide the souls to the home. On the last evening of Obon, lanterns again guide the spirits back to their resting places.
The Obon Festival encompasses Japanese tradition—through music, dance, crafts, martial arts and lanterns. Entertainment on the main stage will include several taiko drumming groups, koto (Japanese zither), shakuhachis (bamboo flutes), traditional and contemporary dance and singing. Martial arts and a host of other cultural exhibits and demonstrations will line several paths through the grounds. Japanese food and culturally-related items will be for sale.
The day will culminate at dusk with the main event—the lantern lighting. Six stone lanterns and floating (on the water, not in the air) paper lanterns throughout the Japanese garden pond and the Frog Pond will create a vision of peacefulness and harmony to commemorate the dead.
The Como Park Japanese Obon Festival, produced by Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Japan America Society of Minnesota, and Saint Paul Nagasaki Sister City Committee will be held on Sunday, August 20, 2023 from 3:00pm-9:00pm. Admission is $5.00 per adult (13+), $3.00 per child (ages 3-12) and Seniors (ages 65+), free for children under 3.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the Festival all about?
The Japanese Obon Festival is reminiscent of Japan’s annual Obon holiday, an important cultural and family event. During this holiday it is said that ancestral spirits revisit their families for three days. Many people will return home to pay their respects at grave-sites, and often small paper lanterns are lit and floated down the river to guide ancestor’s spirits.
So, it’s all about Lanterns?
The Festival encompasses Japanese tradition—through food, music, dance, crafts, martial arts and yes, lanterns. Eat Japanese food, watch children play games while the parents learn more about Japan at the various booths, view traditional Japanese entertainment on the main stage, and lose of few calories by dancing the Bon Odori, the finale of the program. Then, at dusk, stroll over to the pond and view the lanterns floating on the water.
Can I launch or buy a Lantern?
The Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee will be selling Obon Lanterns at their booth location this year – visitors who purchase them are welcome to either take them home OR bring them to the Lily Pond for a Como Volunteer to launch into the Lily Pond any time during the festival. If a lantern is launched by one of our volunteers, guests will not get them back. Only Como volunteers are permitted to launch lanterns.
Do the lanterns fly in the air?
No, they float on the water.
Can I buy tickets ahead of time?
YES! You will need to in 2023! We will not be accepting payment at the gates. You must show you receipt at the gate.
What time do the gates open?
Where do I park?
We recommend that you take Metro Transit, Uber/Lyft, bike, or carpool. Como Park lots and street parking will be available. We will also have a shuttle running to and from a parking lot at 1930 Como Ave. Last drop off is 10PM
Can I use my credit card?
Yes, for entrance to the festival. Some vendors may also accept credit card.
Can I bring my dog?
Sorry, except for service animals, no pets will be allowed on the grounds.
What time do they light the Lanterns?
Lantern Lighting will begin at approximately 8pm in both the Japanese Garden and Frog Pond. Lanterns will be in the Lily Pond all day.
What time does it end?
The day culminates with the lantern launching at 8pm. Vendors also close at 8pm.
Are Wheelchairs or Strollers Available?
The Garden Safari Gifts booth near the conservatory entrance will have a few wheelchairs to rent, but no strollers.
Why is the Japanese Garden Closed?
The Japanese Garden can be accessed from inside the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory from 10 – 6pm. Then, from 6:00pm-8:00pm it is closed to prepare for the lighting of the lanterns in that area. The gate to the Japanese Garden will open around 8:00pm. Please, no flash photography in the garden when it reopens.
I want to become a vendor in 2024. Who should I contact?
All new vendors have to be vetted through our planning committee. You can start the process by emailing our Events Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org with a synopsis of your group and what your booth will be promoting at the festival.