Japan Fest at the Memphis Botanic Gardens


Memphis Botanic Gardens celebrates Japan Fest.

Hannah Miller '22, Staff Writer

On Sept. 30,  crowds of people gathered to celebrate the second annual Memphis Japan Festival, hosted by the Memphis Botanic Garden. The Festival encourages families in the Memphis community to celebrate the unique history and culture of Japan. The week prior to the Festival, the Botanic Garden hosted a “Japan Week” with events such as “Origami in the Garden” and a movie night for families. In addition, there was a showing of “Persona Non Grata” held at Malco Paradiso. The film details the life of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousand of Jewish refugees during World War II.

During the Festival,  there were activities for children and adults alike, and a variety of food vendors, including Memphis Mojo Cafe, New Wing Order, Mempops, and Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda were in attendance. The University of Memphis Language Department coupled with the Botanic Garden together provided a children’s area with stations for children to practice calligraphy and have their faces painted. Children were taught the traditional Japanese game “goldfish scooping,” where goldfish are carefully captured with a paper container until it breaks. A Purikura photo booth was available to give participants souvenir photos. Later, a martial arts demonstration took place on the central lawn of the Botanic Garden, and “Culture Camp” held short segments of discussion and hands-on learning like Japanese Garden tours, a Bonsai Tree Basics talk, and kimono history. Participants of all ages were encouraged to bring their own kimonos, or could purchase one at the festival, and volunteers showed them how to properly dress in them.

Another one of the Festival’s main attractions centered around a sumo wrestling match open to all attendees. For $5, volunteers could be inflated into a large suit and set to wrestle against a partner. Many onlookers stopped to watch and laugh: a Japanese tradition in sumo wrestling is that whenever the challenger knocks over his opponent, he should jump on him to show that he is the true winner.

Another popular event was Pokemon Go in the Garden. Throughout the Festival, families were encouraged to support one of Japan’s most beloved and well-known characters, Pokemon, by checking in to one of the over forty Pokestops all over the Garden grounds. The event culminated with a special visit from the  Memphis Grizzlies forward, Yuta Watanabe, who came to express his proud Japanese heritage and engage with the local Memphis Japanese community.