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The Year in Festivals 2023

Our Tanabata celebration. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

Experience a year of Japanese celebrations with the Garden’s annual cultural festivals! Details for each event as well as registration information will be available closer to each event date and announced in our weekly newsletter.  

O-Shogatsu Celebrations

The exciting shishi-mai, or lion dance, will be held in the Cultural Village. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

O-Shogatsu is the most important time of the year in Japan. At Portland Japanese Garden, we celebrate New Year’s twice, once for members only, and again for a full festival celebration. The Garden will be decorated with traditional arrangements of pine, bamboo, and plum – the “three friends of winter” – either affixed to pillars (called sho-chiku-bai / 松竹梅) or in plantings at gates (called kadomatsu / 門松). These small decorative displays are where the toshigami are said to be manifest, bringing good health and prosperity for the coming year. 

New Year’s Day, Members-Only 

January 1, 2023 
10am – 2pm 

We invite members and guests to join us on this special day to start the new year with a peaceful, contemplative stroll through Portland Japanese Garden. The Umami Café will be serving complimentary festival-style green tea. Last admission is 2pm, and members have until 3pm to enjoy the Garden.  

O-Shogatsu Festival 

January 8, 2023 
10:30 am – 3:30 pm 

Join us to celebrate the start to the new year with a family-friendly celebration. Activities include the exciting shishimai, or lion dance, presentations of a hatsugama, the first tea ceremony of the year, New Year’s shodo, or calligraphy, and koto music. 

Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival 

Hina Matsuri. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

March 5, 2023 

The Doll Festival is a special time to pray for the growth and happiness of girls. It is also called Momo no Sekku, or “Peach Blossom Festival.” Visitors can appreciate a traditional display of dolls representing the Emperor and Empress with members of the Imperial Court. The event will also feature storytelling, songs, and an ikebana workshop for young Garden guests. 

Kodomo no Hi, Children’s Day 

Kodomo no Hi. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

May 7, 2023

Children’s Day is observed in Japan as a day to honor all children in the hopes that they will grow up healthy and strong. Cloth carp streamers, or koinobori, are flown to bring good fortune to children. Come to the Garden with your family to listen to taiko music performed by children, participate in a scavenger hunt, and create origami projects. 

Tanabata, The Star Festival 

A scene from our Tanabata celebration. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

July 2, 2023 

The Star Festival commemorates the one day a year the star-crossed lovers Vega, the Weaver Star and Altair, the Cowherder Star meet in the sky. Visitors can write a wish to add to the colorful display of tanzaku, or wish strips, hanging from bamboo in the Garden’s Crumpacker Bamboo Allee. Visitors will also have the chance to hear the Tanabata story and listen to a taiko performance.

O-Bon, The Spirit Festival 

O-Bon. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

August 12 & 13, 2023 

O-Bon, the Spirit Festival, is an important Buddhist festival to honor ancestors and pray for the souls of the departed. The souls of the ancestors are believed to return to the world from beyond. The Garden’s O-Bon event features sutra chanting, name reading, and the quiet reverence of toro nagashi (lantern floating). This event is reserved for our members only

Bon-Odori, Summer Festival 

August 26, 2023  

A highlight of summer festivals in Japan is the bon-odori ( 盆踊り / Bon dance). Each region in Japan has their own version of the dance, as well as different music. In Japanese Buddhist tradition, dancing is a way to welcome the spirits of our ancestors and the celebrate life. Dancers circle the yagura, a high wooden bandstand for the musicians and singers. Come to learn the dance, see people dressed in yukata, and to hear and feel the sound of taiko drums.  

O-Tsukimi, Moonviewing 

Our Moonviewing event in 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

September 28, 29, & 30, 2023  

During Moonviewing, people gather to appreciate the moon’s beauty and pray for good fortune and an abundant harvest. At this festival, one of the most beloved at the Garden, guests anticipate the moonrise with a cup of tea and an opportunity to compose haiku as shakuhachi and koto music wafts through the air.