Japanese Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden Offers Authentic Look at Japanese Culture | Lifestyles
Editor’s Note: The author of this article is half American of Japanese descent and felt that her cultural and ethnic identity was relevant to her portrayal of the festival and her experience of attending. Personally, she felt the festival provided a platform to represent an under-represented culture in the Midwest.
From ornamental plants and centuries-old comedy forms to traditional dances, the Japanese festival at Missouri Botanical Garden provided an opportunity to experience Japanese culture without a 12-hour flight.
One of the traditional forms of entertainment present at the festival were performances of Saint Louis Osuwa Taiko. The organization is a group of performers who play Taiko, a category of traditional Japanese percussion instruments often used at festivals. Ensemble member Rosemary Mroczkowski said that the loud reverberation of the Taiko drums matches the emotional attachment to hearing your mother’s heartbeat before you are born.
“The connection between this very loud, booming sound that you can feel through the ground, through the ground and with your heart – I think it’s irreplaceable in life,” Mroczkowski said.
The festival, although it takes place on a different weekend than the holiday itself, had some elements shared with the Japanese festival of Obon, a traditional Japanese Buddhist holiday based on honoring the spirits of ancestors. The main element shared between the festival and the party was the Bon Odori, a typical festival event where traditional Japanese folk dances are performed. Taiko drums are also often used in these dances.
Another traditional form of performance at the festival was Rakugo, a traditional Japanese style of entertainment involving a long, complicated comic story where a single performer represents all the characters. The performances were hosted by Saint-Louis Japanese Language School. Jayme Lowe, one of the artists at the school, said she was inspired to perform seeing others play Rakugo for many years.
“As an art form, I’ve always liked storytelling, and I really liked Japanese stories in particular,” Lowe said.
Throughout the day of the festival, the Grand Saint-Louis Bonsai Society on display Bonsai in the Linnean House, a greenhouse in the front area of the Gardens. Bonsai is a traditional style of Japanese tree cultivation that creates miniature trees, the term itself translating to “plateau plantation.” Chris Jersan, a member of the company, said his interest in Japanese culture and his love for the culture of things compelled him to join.
“Producing something that looks like an old tree in nature is our goal. With our display here, you can also see that we are also setting up a whole scene for the trees, ”Jersan said.
The St Louis chapter of Ikebana International also had exhibitions in the Linnean House. They showcased Ikebana, an age-old style of flower arrangement linked to Buddhist tradition in Japan. Most of the arrangements on display were cultivated within the school of Ikenobō, the oldest style of Ikebana. Judy Blix, the chapter president, noted that the chapter vice president, Yoshiko Mitchell, was their teacher from Ikenobō.
“You learn to appreciate all of nature, the little buds that appear, the beautiful and strong that are in full bloom and the ones that have passed,” said Blix. “We can appreciate a leaf that is buggy because it is part of life. I liked being in this group because the appreciation of nature goes beyond perfect beauty.
More details about the event can be found on the Website of the Botanical Garden.