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A Look Ahead to the Cultural Festivals Returning to Portland Japanese Garden in 2024

Carp streamers known as koinobori flying at Portland Japanese Garden.
Koinobori flown during Children’s Day. Photo by Julie Gursha.

Portland Japanese Garden’s mission is Inspiring Harmony and Peace. For more than 60 years, the Garden has promoted cultural understanding of Japan with locals and visitors from around the world through the beauty of the Garden as well as through cultural programs. Since the 1970s, the organization has brought together the community to celebrate traditional cultural festivals. Mark your calendars now and join us in a new year of Japanese celebrations!

O-Shogatsu, Japanese New Year | January 7, 2024

Kadomatsu, traditional Japanese decorations for New Years placed outside Portland Japanese Garden's Nezu Gate.
Kadomatsu decorations outside the Nezu Gate.

During O-Shogatsu, people celebrate the start of a new year and hope for happiness and prosperity in the months ahead. Here at the Garden, we honor this special festival with kadomatsu, or traditional arrangements of pine, bamboo, and plum branches, and family-friendly activities and performances throughout the day. On January 1st, the Garden opens exclusively for those in the Golden Crane Recognition Society and members of Portland Japanese Garden.

Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival | March 3, 2024

The doll display that is put up for Hina Matsuri.
The doll display that is put up for Hina Matsuri. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

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 a family-friendly ikebana workshop.

Kodomo no Hi, Children’s Day | May 5, 2024

A child performer playing taiko drum smiles as she acknowledges an unseen audience.
A scene from Children’s Day in 2023. Photo by Julie Gursha.

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, create origami projects, and satisfy your curiosity about koi.

Tanabata, The Star Festival | July 7, 2024

Color pieces of paper known as tanzaku that are displayed during the traditional Japanese holiday Tanabata.
Tanzaku, or wish strips, on display during Tanabata at Portland Japanese Garden. Photo by Tyler Quinn.

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 Family Bamboo Allee. Visitors can also hear the Tanabata story and listen to a taiko performance.

O-Bon, The Spirit Festival | August 16 & 17, 2024

People gathered listening to the lotus sutra during O-Bon, a festival held annually at Portland Japanese Garden.
A scene from O-Bon in 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 chanting of the Lotus sutra, reading the names of the departed, and the quiet reverence of toro nagashi (lantern floating). This event is reserved exclusively for members.

Bon-Odori, Summer Festival | August 31, 2024

People dancing in Portland Japanese Garden during the Bon Odori festival.
A scene from Bon-Odori in 2023.

A highlight of summer festivals in Japan is the bon-odori ( 盆踊り / Bon dance). Come gather as a community, learn some dances, see people dressed in yukata, and hear and feel the sound of taiko drums.

O-Tsukimi, Moonviewing | September 16, 17, & 18, 2024

The view from Portland Japanese Garden's East veranda showing the moon rising over downtown Portland, Oregon
Portland Japanese Garden’s Moonviewing in years past. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

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.