Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Missouri Botanical Garden and its partners have decided to cancel the 2020 Japanese Festival for the first time in its 44-year history.
The festival, held on Labor Day weekend, has been held each year since 1977.
While the typical Japanese Festival will not be held this year, the Garden will still host some special activities on Labor Day Weekend. The Garden will offer extended hours throughout the weekend, with last entry at 7 p.m.
The private Teahouse Island of the Japanese Garden will be open for guided public tours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Normally closed to the public, visitors can see the Garden’s soan, the 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. Visitors can also see a snow-viewing lantern, yukimi-doro, a gift from St. Louis’ sister city of Suwa, Japan. Teahouse Island tour tickets are $10 in addition to Garden admission. The maximum group size per tour is 10 people.
On Saturday and Sunday evenings, the Garden will offer Candlelight Walks and Toro Nagashi, a lantern ceremony held in partnership with the St. Louis-Suwa Sister Cities Committee. Late summer in Japan means Obon, the festival when spirits of the dead return to spend time with the living. The Toro Nagashi ceremony celebrates this. Lanterns are inscribed with the names of those deceased, then lit and set afloat as a way of accompanying the spirits as they depart for another year. Entry is at 7:30 p.m. and lanterns will be launched just after 8 p.m. Tickets will be available online only and capacity is limited to 250 people each night. Tickets will include the cost of the lantern, which guest will receive upon arrival.
“For the first time in more than four decades, the decision to cancel the Garden’s Japanese Festival was a difficult one, but necessary in light of the current situation,” said Dave Lowry, Japanese Activities Committee chairman. “The Japanese Activities Committee hopes the lantern release will be a suitable way to commemorate those who have been lost to us this year. We look forward to next year’s festival.”
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 and South exit. Free parking is available on site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer.