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Missouri Botanical Garden welcomes thousands for Japanese Festival

One of the largest and oldest Japanese Festivals returned to the Missouri Botanical Garden this weekend.

ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Botanical Garden celebrated its 45th Japanese Festival over Labor Day weekend. It’s home to one of the largest Japanese gardens in the country.

“This festival is actually a thank you to the St. Louis community, from the Japanese American community. Because of internment. We had 40 families jump off the train when they were coming through St. Louis to relocate and of all the cities they stopped at on the train ride. St. Louis was the only one to welcome them,” Bonita Harmon, with Kimono-San of St. Louis, said.

To kick things off the Omikoshi shrine made its way through the grounds.

“It is actually one of only five traditional Japanese Omikoshi shrines in the United States and it is a 400-pound lacquered piece of hand-carved artwork, it's made out of wood,” Harmon said.

Mitzi Hedgecock with St. Louis Okinawa Kenjinkei Eisa said it’s so important to her and her family to share their culture and celebrate with the community.

“Okinawa is a small island, so it's similar to what Hawaii is to America, Okinawa is to Japan. So we have a unique culture, and the EISA dance celebrates that so it helps bring our members together but also shares our community,” Hedgecock said.

At their booth, they sell lots of origami and handmade items so people can take a little piece of what they learned home with them.

“It's nice to get something handmade and it supports us locally as well. So it helps build our community together. And it supports us being able to share our culture with one another and all the attendees as well,” Hedgecock said.

The festival runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The grounds open at 9 a.m. and candlelight walks run until 10 p.m.

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