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The mission of the Springfield Sister Cities Association is “Peace through people.” Its 27th Japanese Fall Festival, however, will feature some hand-to-hand combat.
Three title-winning USA Sumo wrestlers will battle it out on the festival stage Sept. 8-10 at the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, located within the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. The sumo matches are just one of several displays of authentic Japanese culture scheduled for the event, which highlights Springfield’s 37-year-old sister city relationship with Isesaki, Japan.
Eat, shop and enjoy cultural opportunities
There will be vendor and artisan booths featuring wares authentic to Japanese culture, as well as a Nihon bunka taiken tent (Japanese culture experience tent) where guests can meet people from Isesaki and learn about their culture. Guests can also check out the omiyage and dagashi tents (souvenirs and snacks) as well as purchase concessions.
The festival also includes several cultural opportunities geared toward children, including an activity area featuring traditional Japanese games and crafts led by Japanese language students from Kickapoo High School.
‘Rikishi’ return to Springfield
The sumo demonstrations are scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 8, 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9, and 1:50 p.m. Sept. 10. The lineup of rikishi (sumo wrestlers) features Hiroki, a pro sumo for 12 years. He measures 6-foot-4 and 570 pounds, making him the heaviest active sumo wrestler in the world.
Also wrestling will be Ramy (6-foot-4, 500 pounds), a 10-time national sumo champion, and Mendee (5-foot-10, 330 pounds), a former world sumo champion.
This won’t be the first time Springfield has experienced sumo wrestling. The 2014 Japanese Fall Festival also featured a demonstration.
Enjoy traditional tea ceremonies
The Japanese Fall Festival includes four opportunities to participate in a traditional tea ceremony led by Hiromi Elliston of Kizuna Japan America Friendship Club. Those ceremonies will be held at 12:30 and 2 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10 in the stroll garden’s tea house.
Registration is $15 and is only accepted at the front gate on the same day as the ceremony. Space is very limited, so organizers recommend that you register early.
If you can’t make it to one of the four tea ceremonies, you can still enjoy the traditional beverage. Hot or cold servings of the same matcha tea will be for sale from noon-3 p.m. both Sept. 9 and 10.
Entertainment and workshops are scheduled all weekend long
The Springfield Sister Cities Association has invited back several popular performers for this year’s festival, including Uzumaru, a Yosakoi dance ensemble from Japantown in San Jose, California; Yasu Ishida, a storyteller and magician originally from Ube, Japan; and Seiran Chiba, a large-scale calligrapher from the Fukushima prefecture in Japan.
Other returning acts include St. Louis Osuwa Taiko, ensemble drummers; Kizuna, Springfield’s Japan America friendship club; Tracy’s Kenpo Karate Studios of Southwest Missouri; Springfield Cosplay; and KiRa KiRa Springfield, a cosplay dance team. You can find the full performance schedule on the Japanese Fall Festival’s website.
You can do more than just spectate, however. The Japanese Fall Festival also includes several workshops:
- Kintsugi — The ancient Japanese art of mending broken ceramic vessels with gold
- Ikebana — The Japanese art of flower arranging
- Amezaiku — The ancient Japanese art of candy making, led by Candy5, the first-ever female amezaiku artist
- Baduanjin — A form of medical qigong, meant to improve health
- Kokedama — Translated as “moss ball” in Japanese, kokedama is a living plant in its own ball of soil, wrapped in moss and held together with string
- Bonsai — The Japanese art of training miniature trees
Advanced registration is required for the workshops, which carry an additional fee, ranging from $10-$60.
Want to go?
What: Springfield Sister Cities Association’s 27th Japanese Fall Festival
When: 5-10 p.m. Sept. 8; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 9; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 10
Where: Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden inside the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park
Why: Half of the admission proceeds are donated to the maintenance and development of the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden. The remaining proceeds benefit the Springfield Sister Cities Association’s cultural programs
Admission: Adults are $14 on Sept. 9 and $9 on Sept. 8 and 10; children ages 3-12 are $4 all weekend; dress in cosplay Sept. 10 and receive $4 admission