The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is set to celebrate the traditional Japanese festival of obon with the thirty-fifth annual Bon Festival on August 18. One of the Morikami’s most popular events, attracting sold-out crowds and entertainment that is distinctively Morikami, the Bon Festival is a moment of retrospect and thanks for those who passed before us. This year, admission will be limited with tickets available online only to help quell the scope of the crowds that swarmed the gardens last year.
Obon is a traditional Japanese Buddhist festival that honors the spirits of the ancestors. Celebrated for more than 500 years in Japan, obon (or bon) is tied to the lunar calendar, a three-day stretch when it is believed that the spirits of deceased family members and ancestors return to the land of the living. A time of family togetherness and remembrance, obon is marked with visits to ancestral homes where family members clean their ancestor’s graves, homage for the past sacrifices that have helped the current generations find their place in the present.
During obon, families gather for festive dances called the Bon Odori, aimed to entertain the visiting the spirits. Accompanied by flutists and drummers, performances grow to a fever pitch, growing to a carnival-like atmosphere, with games, entertainment and food all playing a prominent role. The festival culminates with Toro Nagashi, floating paper lanterns (some elaborately decorated, others solemn and simple) that are illuminated and floated down rivers, a symbolic gesture of the spirits returning to the world of the dead, which is then usually followed by a fireworks display.
The Morikami Museum will celebrate the three-day tradition in one fun-filled and joyous evening August 18. From 4-9 p.m., the Morikami will transform from tranquil and introspective gardens into an ennichi street fair, including authentic Japanese fare, the Kirin Beer Garden for the of-age guests and shopping. Fan-favorite Taiko drum performances by FushU Daiko, scheduled for 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m.and 8 p.m., will thunder through the 200-acre park, while the Bon Odori, performed by Japanese folk dance group Chistose Kai, scheduled at 4:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., will not only delight visitors but also beckon them to join. For the kiddies, games and children-friendly activities will abound for entertainment.
As the sun sets, the Toro Nagashi ceremony will take place on the Morikami Lake, engulfing the pond in a sea of light, acting as a guide for the ancestors’ return from the land of the living. To cap the evening of remembrance, a dazzling fireworks display will light up the sky, which, when set against the candlelit lanterns, gives visitors an introspective moment of reverence.
- Candlelit lanterns will be on sale for $10. They cannot be purchased in advance but always sell out, so grab yours early in the evening.
- The Bon Festival will take place Saturday, August 18, from 4-9 p.m. Because of last year’s overwhelming popularity and record crowds (nearly 9,000 visitors!) tickets are only available online. There will be no tickets sold at the door. Tickets are $15 for adults, $6 for children. Purchase them here; they are expected to sell out!
4000 Morikami Park Rd.
Delray Beach, FL 33446