Samurai Sword Soul is set to headline Japan’s 26th Annual Springfield Autumn Festival next month.
The New York-based theater company presents choreographed sword fights, humanist-themed comedies and dramas. They debuted at the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2003 and have previously performed at the Japanese Fall Festival in Springfield.
This year’s Japanese Fall Festival takes place Friday through Sunday, September 9-11, located in the Mizumoto Japanese Promenade Garden in the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, 2400 S. Scenic Ave . The festival is hosted by the Springfield Sister Cities Association and Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
In addition to Samurai Sword Soul, guests can expect live performances from Uzumaru, a Yosakoi dance ensemble, Yasu Ishida, a storytelling magician from Ube, Japan, and Seiran Chiba, a calligrapher from scale of Fukushima prefecture in Japan. Yosakoi is a Japanese-inspired style of dance performed at festivals and other events across the country.
Local artists returning to the festival include St. Louis Osuwa Taiko, Ensemble Drummers, Kizuna, Japan America Friendship Club of Springfield, Tracy’s Kenpo Karate Studio of Southwestern Missouri, Springfield Cosplay and KiRa KiRa Springfield, a cosplay dance crew.
From dusk on Friday and Saturday, you can enjoy a candlelit stroll, lit by hundreds of torches, as Japanese music fills the air. Guests can purchase a wishing lantern at the festival to float on one of the koi ponds.
Throughout the weekend, guests can also learn more about Sadako Sasaki during the festival’s history walk. Sasaki was a victim of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She was 2 years old when the bombing took place and died aged 12 of leukemia. She is popularly known for the 1,000 origami cranes folded before her death.
After: Read a book to animals protected through the Humane Society’s Reading for Rescue program
Garden signs featuring Sasaki’s story will be featured throughout the boardwalk garden. At the end of the walk, guests can pick up a free bookmark.
“Peace through people is the motto (of the Springfield Sister Cities Association) and so this history walk is dedicated to that theme and the story of little Sadako who wanted to have peace in the world,” said Lisa Bakerink, executive director of the Springfield Sister Cities. Association.
Springfield Public School students will help create paper cranes to accompany the march of history.
A variety of vendor and craft stalls, the Japanese culture experience tent, and souvenir and snack tents will also be available during the festival.
Festival hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday, September 9; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 10; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 11.
Admission for adults is $12 on Saturdays and $8 on Fridays and Sundays. Children 12 and under are charged $3 per day. On Sundays, admission for anyone dressed in cosplay is $3. Members of the Springfield Sister Cities Association enjoy free admission all weekend.
Half of festival admissions are donated to the maintenance and development of the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, a 7.5-acre garden established in 1985. The Stroll Garden features a koi lake, moon bridge, meditation, a tea house and traditional Japanese landscaping.
“I believe Springfield is very privileged to have the opportunity to have so much culture here in the Midwest,” Bakerink said. “I think the opportunity for culture and learning about culture really adds to the quality of life here.”
The festival program has not yet been announced. Bakerink said she expects it to be released next week.
For updates and information on volunteering, check the Springfield Sister Cities Association website at peacethroughpeople.org/events/japanese-fall-festival/.
To RSVP, visit the Japanese Autumn Festival Facebook event at fb.me/e/55kXC2edE.
The Japanese Fall Festival includes a partnership with Springfield Public Schools. A few days before the festival, Samurai Sword Soul will visit a handful of SPS schools to perform their routine.
The annual Japanese Fall Festival is a celebration of authentic Japanese culture, highlighting Springfield’s sister city relationship with Isesaki, Japan. Each year, a commission of citizens from Isesaki travels to Springfield to contribute to the festival. This tour has been canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greta Cross is the current affairs reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @gretacrossphoto. Story idea? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org