Japanese Obon Festival FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What’s the Festival all about?
The Japanese Obon Festival at Como Park 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.

Didn’t this used to be called Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival?
Yes! We changed the name because it 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.

Where are the lanterns and do they fly in the air? 
The lanterns will be set in the Frog Pond in front of the Conservatory, and in the Japanese Garden pond a little after 8pm. These lanterns float in the water, not in the air.

Is it free?
Sorry, no. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for kids 3 – 12 and those 65+ (ages 2 and under are free) .

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 in 2017? It has been so crowded in the past!
NEW in 2017:
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 tripled the amount of porta-potties!
Thanks to Metro Transit you can ride for FREE to Como by clicking HERE. Just answer two questions and get your pass
Advanced tickets are available until Noon on Sunday. If you’d like to skip the line you can purchase advanced adult tickets by clicking HERE. Advanced children and senior tickets can be purchased HERE. If you do purchase advanced tickets, the main entrance, to the South of the Conservatory will have a designated entrace 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

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, but cash will get you in quicker. Food vendors only accept cash.

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

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. The grounds are closed at 9pm.

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

Can I buy advanced tickets or can I get them at the door?
You can buy tickets at the entry points on Sunday. Advanced tickets are available until Noon on Sunday. If you’d like to skip the line you can purchase advanced adult tickets by clicking HERE. Advanced children and senior tickets can be purchased HERE. If you do purchase advanced tickets, there will be a designated entrance near the front gate (south of the Conservatory) just 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

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.

Will the zoo be open?
The zoo and gardens in the Conservatory will be closed at 6pm. The bathrooms in the Conservatory will be open for the festival beginning at 6:30.

How do I get there?
Parking will likely be a challenge for our area with the higher number of visitors attending. We highly suggest if you are coming out to the festival to take advantage of the free Metro Transit passes.  Route 3 and Route 83 provide direct service to the park. The METRO Green Line provides service on University Avenue between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. For Trip Planning assistance, contact a Transit Expert at 612-373-3333 or visit metrotransit.org. Como recently installed a Nice Ride Bike Station right in front of the Visitor Center.  To find a station and bikes near you click here: https://secure.niceridemn.org/map/  You could also consider using taxi services, Uber or Lyft.

What if it rains?
The festival is held rain or shine!

Click the image to enlarge.

 

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