ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A traditional Japanese festival is returning to the ABQ BioPark this weekend. The Obon Festival features traditional dancing and demonstrations and allows guests to decorate flowing lanterns before releasing them onto the pond inside the botanic garden.

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Maria Thomas, ABQ BioPark Curator of Plants, has been involved with the Japanese Garden since its inception. She likened the Obon festival to how many people celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. “We come together and invite our ancestors back into the celebration and commemorate where we’ve come from,” Thomas said.

Each ticket includes a toro nagashi, or floating lantern to celebrate loved ones. The event begins with the Taiko Drummers followed by a Japanese tea ceremony, a ceremonial way of preparing and drinking green tea. Then the Bon Odori will perform. Bon Odori or “Bon dance” is a style of dancing performed during Obon. Then a shamisen (a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument) player will perform on the main stage.

“I think it’s also important to identify how this festival is unique to Japan,” Thomas said. “Bringing the community in to experience something that we may never get to go to Japan and experience but we can experience it here in Albuquerque.”