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Oh Koi

St. Louis gets an Eastern exposure at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Japanese Festival

We can only wish you luck where parking is concerned at this weekend's 25th annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 'cause the lot and grounds will be stuffed like a jogging suit worn by a shoplifter in a butcher shop run by a blind man. Or something.

More than 30,000 people are expected to visit the Garden over the holiday weekend to partake in a raft of fun activities. The cultural attractions include taiko drumming units from Suwa, Japan, as well as St. Louis; shakahachi (flute) and koto (stringed-instrument) players; Suzuki-method violinists and cellists; the Niji and Hana choral groups; the Okinawa Buyo Kai, Tozan Ryu, Hanamizuki and Nami dancers; and karate and judo demos.

Artists will offer demonstrations in ice sculpture, raku-yaki (ceramics), shibori (wearable fabric art), bonsai (miniature topiary) and ikebana (flower-arranging). Look for the kimono fashion show, the exhibit of kokeshi (carved wooden dolls) and the Japanese marketplace. There will also be a painting demo and display by Ikuo Hirayama, president of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and a Hiroshima survivor.

Visitors can watch tea ceremonies on Teahouse Island (for an extra $10 fee) and enjoy a parade, discussions of Zen philosophy, cooking demonstrations, concessions and karaoke contests.

Kids will particularly appreciate games, the wandering Japanese "candyman," a children's wagon parade and the spinning tops of Edo.

The action centers around one of the Garden's jewels, the 14-acre Seiwa-en, or Japanese Garden, with its lake, rock garden, zigzagging bridge and flora. Candlelight walks through Seiwa-en will be available in the evenings.

The Japan Activities Committee, an umbrella group that includes about 10 organizations, sponsors the festival.

Don't forget to feed those fat, hungry koi (Japanese carp).

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