A soft, steady rain Sunday sent visitors indoors to wander through the final day of the annual chrysanthemum show at Lauritzen Gardens.

Bold mums combined with vibrant colors, rich fabrics and exotic design elements gave visitors a taste of Japanese culture. The festival is the result of the friendship between Omaha and its Japanese sister city of Shizuoka.

Highlights of the three-day event included traditional Japanese music played on the koto, a 13-string instrument about 71 inches long. The gentle, plinking sounds coming from three koto musicians, Yoshie Mizuno, Kayo Throne and Emika Unno, provided a soothing background for a stroll through the many exhibits.

One of the features of the show was a spectacular five-level chrysanthemum pagoda that was more than 10 feet tall. The chrysanthemums were planted June 1 and were groomed to follow the lines of the pagoda, according to a volunteer at the gardens.

Placed among the floral exhibits were some of the 24 stone lanterns that were formerly displayed in prominent gardens of Shizuoka and later given to Omaha. Stone lanterns became part of Japanese architectural ornamentation about 1,400 years ago when they were first associated with Buddhist temples and pagodas.

Other highlights included a University of Nebraska at Omaha dance troupe performing a Japanese sea shanty that is said to have first been sung by fishermen in northern Japan.

The dancers move as if they were ocean waves and fishermen who drag nets, pull ropes and lift luggage over their shoulders. It is taught in schools across Japan.

The festival also featured hands-on events for adults and children, including instruction in calligraphy, origami, making Samurai helmets and carp-shaped kites, among other things.

kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

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