The Lantern Lighting Festival, the largest Japan-related festival in Minnesota, takes place in Como Park every August. Modeled after summer festivals held across Japan, it features stage performances, cultural demonstrations, activities, and, of course, Japanese food. The event 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. The Obon Festival also features the Bon Odori, or folk dance, in which all are invited to join in the circle and dance.
The Como Park Lantern Lighting Festival incorporates traditions such as the Bon Odori with Minnesota culture to create new traditions. Every year Mu Performing Arts, featuring the Mu-Min Chorus Mu-Daiko, and Mikaharu-kai Dance Group perform the Minnesota Bon Odori, celebrating Minnesotan culture with a Japanese flair.
A collaborative effort between JASM, Como Park, and the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee (SPNSCC), the Lantern Lighting Festival is a chance for JASM to reach out to the community and directly promote cultural exchange. By creating a fun event for all ages, we hope to share the experience with people who fondly remember festivals in Japan, and those who wish to experience one for the first time.