Paper lanterns feature prominently in the Japanese holiday obon, making them a perfect choice for party décor. Keep the look chic by hanging solid-color lanterns in various shapes and sizes at different levels throughout the yard rather than lanterns printed with kitschy patterns. Select lanterns lit by battery-powered LED lights or opt for traditional sky lanterns that can be tethered to tables as airborne centerpieces.
The embroidered silk kimonos found in traditional Japanese fashion are perhaps some of the most recognizable in the world. Incorporate those colorful kimonos into the theme by laying them over white tablecloths in place of traditional table runners or overlays. For a less expensive option, go with printed-cotton kimonos, also known as yukatas.
Incorporate Japanese-painted paper parasols and silk fans to add a more feminine touch to the party décor. For a more masculine effect, decorate with displays of samurai swords and paper opera masks worn during kabuki theater performances.
Let ikebana -- the Japanese art of flower arrangement -- be your guide to simple, sleek centerpieces. Opt for a living centerpiece, such as a potted bonsai tree or an orchid surrounded by polished black river rocks. To keep the price down, stick with floating candles and a few lotus blossoms in a clear low bowl or a few stalks of living bamboo in a tall glass vase.
Miniature Zen gardens create interactive centerpieces that invite guests to play. Place several around the base of an arrangement of simple white pillar candles to add height to the table décor.
For many, sushi and sashimi dishes are the first that come to mind when they think of Japanese cuisine -- but these raw fish dishes can intimidate some guests. Plan a palate-friendly menu by incorporating a few traditional Japanese dishes that have a broader appeal, like teriyaki and tempura.
Japanese plating traditions include small portions served simply, making an appetizer menu a perfect option. Along with various types of sushi, serve bite-size hors d'oeuvres of Japanese-prepared meat and veggies on bamboo skewers. Miso soup, another favorite in Japan, can be served in sake cups to keep it proportional to the rest of the hors d'oeuvres.
Along with sake cups for soup, pick up an assortment of small plates and bowls in contrasting colors and textures for serving the hors d'oeuvres. While your menu may contain mainly items that can be eaten by hand, providing guests with attractive lacquered chopsticks adds that extra thematic touch.
As the Japanese alcoholic beverage of choice, sake is as fun to serve as it is to drink. Mix and match a variety of sake sets to serve your guests or save money by using plain glass shot glasses. Shochu is another Japanese liquor, with a higher alcohol content that sake, making it the perfect option to use in Japanese-themed cocktails.
Green tea, another beverage option imported from Japan, works well as a non-alcoholic option. Add a modern twist to the traditionally hot beverage by serving it iced or blended into a fruit smoothie -- perfect for summer. Consider Japan's pearl milk tea -- more popularly known as boba or bubble tea -- as a fun and funky beverage option. The oversize straws required to slurp up the tapioca beads make the drink entertaining as well as refreshing.
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