When I found out it was time once again for the Como Park Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, I promptly fell off my chair and screamed "Nante subarashii no!" or, "How exciting!" for all those not fluent in useful Japanese expressions. The festival is in celebration of the last evening of Obon, a traditional cultural and family holiday in which ancestral spirits are said to revisit the family for three days. The significance of lantern lighting is to guide the spirits to the homes of family members and back to their resting places. The theme for this year's festival is "The Element of Tea" and events will center on a multitude of Japanese traditions. Live entertainment featuring Taiko drumming circles, koto (a Japanese stringed instrument), shakuhachis (bamboo flutes), and contemporary dance and singing will begin at 3:30 p.m. Additionally, martial arts, ikebana (traditional Japanese flower arranging), origami demonstrations, kites, and loads of other cultural activities will be on-site, as well as food booths and a raffle. The lantern lighting begins at dusk. Miss this event and you won't be saying "Domo arigatoJackie Varriano." A free shuttle will pick up festival-goers at Midway Stadium starting at 2:30 p.m. (street parking is also available).
Sun., Aug. 17, 2008