Join the Missouri Botanical Garden in celebrating the culture and traditions of Japan when the 37th annual Japanese Festival returns to St. Louis.

Join the Missouri Botanical Garden in celebrating the culture and traditions of Japan when the 37th annual Japanese Festival returns to St. Louis. From traditional music to martial arts, sumo to sushi, bon odori dancing to bonsai displays and thunderous taiko drumming to Tea House Island tours, the three-day Labor Day weekend is filled with sights, sounds and experiences for the entire family. The 2013 Japanese Festival is Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 2 (Labor Day) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $15 for adults ages 13 and over and $5 for members; members’ children (ages 12 and under) are free. Visit for details.

Seiwa-en, the “garden of pure, clear harmony and peace” and one of the largest authentic Japanese strolling gardens in North America, takes center stage for the weekend’s festivities. A boisterous opening ceremony kicks off the celebration Saturday morning at the Japanese Garden entrance with an elaborate omikoshi Shinto shrine parade, bon odori festival dancing, taiko drumming and remarks by local and visiting dignitaries.

Always a crowd pleaser, retired sumo wrestlers from the Hawaiian Islands will give visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle, training and fighting techniques of Japan’s ancient warrior. Hear their perspective and watch several practice bouts during demonstrations twice daily.

The acclaimed Osuwa Daiko ensemble from Japan will be featured at this year’s Festival and is expected to draw taiko enthusiasts from around the country with their dramatic and formidable style. They perform twice daily at the outdoor Cohen Amphitheater. 

The private Teahouse Island of the Japanese Garden will be open for guided public tours every hour from 12 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and from 12 to 4 p.m. on Monday. Normally closed to the public, visitors can see the Garden’s soan, or “farm hut” style teahouse, which was a gift from Missouri’s sister state of Nagano prefecture in Japan. Originally built in Japan, the teahouse was reassembled on site by Japanese craftsmen and dedicated during a Shinto ceremony in 1977. Teahouse tour tickets are $5 each, and the maximum group size per tour is 20.

Watch martial arts demonstrations of judo, kendo, aikido and karate-do, along with the more ancient koryu bugei. Learn about the disciplined art of ikebana flower arranging and the proper pruning of a delicate bonsai tree. Marvel at the quick work of ice sculptor Naomi Hamamura as he wields a chain saw to create birds and other objects from large, frozen blocks.

Learn the steps and join in a bon odori dancing demonstration and take in a colorful kimono fashion show on Sunday inside the Shoenberg Theater. Twenty cosplay show models will be wearing Japanese costume attire. The term “cosplay” is a blend of the English words “costume” and “play.” Information and discussion on the history of cosplay, as well as the difference between Japanese cosplay and American cosplay will be presented. Arrive early; seating is limited.

The “Candyman” Masaji Terasawa is back to roam the grounds, delighting onlookers with his unique style of street magic and sugary-spun creations. Stop by the Spink Pavilion to enjoy children’s activities including origami paper folding and traditional Japanese games.

Shop for souvenirs and other Asian-inspired merchandise at the Japanese marketplace and the Garden Gate Shop. Sample Japanese cuisine at the outdoor food court, including sushi, yakisoba noodles, pancake-like okonomiyaki and green tea ice cream. Take back the tap – bring your own refillable water bottle to keep refreshed throughout the day.

Wind down with an evening showing of the anime feature “The Children Who Chase Lost Voices” at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. Listen to a demonstration of Japanese karaoke on Sunday. Take a candlelit stroll through the Japanese Garden from 8 to 10 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Sponsorship support for the 2013 Japanese Festival is presented by Wells Fargo Advisors. Additional sponsorship support by Novus International and TOYOTA Bodine.                

Since 1977, the Missouri Botanical Garden has produced the annual Japanese Festival in conjunction with the Japanese Activities Committee, a coalition of several Japanese-American organizations that provide art, dance, food and entertainment for thousands of visitors each year.          

Japanese Festival hours are Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (doors open at 9 a.m. and remain open until 10 p.m. for evening candlelight walks), and Monday, Sept. 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please note: no trams, free hours or early morning walking hours on signature event weekends.Admission is $15 for adults ages 13 and over, and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. Missouri Botanical Garden members are $5 and members’ children (ages 12 and under) are free.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis, accessible from Interstate 44 at the Vandeventer exit and from Interstate 64 at the Kingshighway North & South exit. Free parking is available on-site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer.

For general information, visit or call (314) 577‑5100 (toll-free, 1‑800‑642‑8842). Learn more about the Japanese Festival at

Members get more! Join the Garden or renew your membership during the Japanese Festival and receive free admission for two adults and all children for every day of the event. Memberships begin at $65 ($60 for seniors) and offer 12 months of free admission for two adults and all children, plus exclusive invitations and discounts. Learn more at