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.

What’s new? It has been so crowded in the past!
NEW additions in 2019:
We are continuing the expanded layout of 2016 which allows guests plenty of room to spread out.
We added more the food vendors
We added more Martial Artist performances
We added more exhibitors
We moved the main stage to accommodate a larger crowd
We added more porta-potties!

What about bad weather?

The event will go on. Rain or shine.


Can I buy tickets ahead of time?

Adavanced tickets will be available in summer 2019.  If you do purchase advanced tickets, the main entrance, to the South of the Conservatory will have a designated entrance for you. Look for the signs near that entrance. You can also enter any of the other gates if you have your printed out receipt or photo ID. Tickets will also be available at the door.

What time do the gates open?
We will have 4 entry gates this year opening at 3pm. See the layout below.

Can I use my credit card?
Credit cards for the entry fee will be accepted at the Main gate only. Food vendors only accept cash.

Can I bring my dog?
Sorry, except for service animals, no pets will be allowed on the grounds.

Is the Zoo open?
Yes, the Zoo will be open our normal hours of 10am-6pm.

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.

Where can I park?
Parking will likely be a challenge for our area with the higher number of visitors attending. Along with our parking lots we have an off-site shuttle lot located at 1930 Como Avenue which will likely fill up fast as well.

We highly suggest if you are coming out to the festival to take advantage of the free Metro Transit passes, or consider using taxi services, Uber or Lyft.

How long does the Shuttle Run?
The shuttles run all day and will run until approximately 10:00pm. There are 5 shuttles running continuously during the majority of the event

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 will be open all day then close from 6:00pm-8:00 to prepare for the lighting of the lanterns in that area. The gate to the Japanese Garden will re-open around 8:00. Please, no flash photography in the garden when it reopens.

I want to become a vendor. 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 lindsay.sypnieski@ci.stpaul.mn.us  with a synopsis of your group and what your booth will be promoting at this year’s festival.

Click the image to enlarge.