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Sakura Matsuri returns to Brooklyn Botanic Garden for cherry blossom festival

March 15, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Drummers perform at a past Sakura Matsuri. Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
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Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, the legendary annual event dubbed New York City’s rite of spring, returns for its 37th year on Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29, 2018. For over three decades, Sakura Matsuri at Brooklyn Botanic Garden has showcased a rich and exhilarating cross-section of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. The festival is the highlight of the Garden’s mesmerizing hanami (“cherry blossom viewing”) season.

Based on the Japanese tradition of appreciating the beauty and fleeting nature of cherry blossoms, hanami at Brooklyn Botanic Garden draws New Yorkers and visitors from around the world each spring to view the Garden’s collection of over 200 flowering cherry trees, one of the most spectacular cherry blossom displays in North America.  


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Musical Performers

The Cherry Esplanade Stage will showcase six new and returning musical acts this year. Among the new performers is Bo-Peep, a grunge-rock trio originally from Fukuoka, Japan, whose raw sounds have received international critical acclaim. The all-female group has brought its explosive live show to the U.S.’s SXSW, Japan’s Fuji Rock, Britain’s The Great Escape and now to Sakura Matsuri.

Also new to the festival this year is The Molice, a Tokyo-based band that draws inspiration from ’70s punk, ’80s New Wave and ’90s unchained indie guitar rock. Gaijin à Go-Go, a returning favorite, will get visitors dancing to groovy Japanese pop inspired by 60s go-go music. J-Music Ensemble also returns with its high-octane jazz inspired by anime and video game themes. Energetic and thunderous taiko drumming performances by Taiko Masala and Soh Daiko will also thrill visitors.

On the J-Lounge Stage in the Osborne Garden, visitors can get moving to DJ Sashimi’s beats, which sample Edo-era melodies; Naruto Dance Party, featuring Kohei and anime songstress TiA; and Kuni Mikami and East of the Sun’s jazz-flavored renditions of traditional Japanese folksongs. Spanish flute virtuoso Rodrigo Rodriguez will perform a meditative shakuhachi flute concert in the Garden’s auditorium.

Dance and Performance

Dancejapan, New York’s preeminent traditional Japanese dance troupe, returns with founder Sachiyo Ito. The Japanese Folk Dance Institute of NY also returns with a performance of traditional minbu dances on the Cherry Esplanade Stage, as well as a hanagasa odori —“flower hat dance” — among visitors in the Osborne Garden

Samurai Sword Soul, fronted by Sakura Matsuri Master of Ceremonies Yoshi Amao, will wow the audience with daring sword fights and thrilling performative storytelling. On the Osborne Garden lawn, artist Akim Funk Buddha presents the Urban Tea Terrarium, featuring the Bonsai Lab Dancers.

Sakura Matsuri’s popular and expanded series of traditional tea ceremonies will return for both days of the festival. Tea ceremony master Soumi Shimizu travels from Tokyo to join daughter Sōkyo Shimizu in deeply refined and reflective presentations.


Fashion Shows

The Ninth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show is the East Coast’s premier outdoor cosplay showcase and one of the most lively and anticipated events of the festival. This year’s cosplay fashion show is hosted by Becka Noel and Dhareza Cosplayza and accompanied by live original music by the J-Music Ensemble.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Parasol Society Fashion Show, a prim and proper pageant of grand proportions, showcases a catwalk performance set to live music by Gaijin à Go-Go.


Japanese Arts and Games

Sakura Matsuri showcases Japanese arts and pop culture, including manga art, comedy, games, crafts, and more.  In the Osborne Garden, meet the zine creators from CosplayNYC. Stand-up comic Rio Koike’s magnificent magic show returns to Brooklyn from Japan, and Rich Kameda wows the audience with classic illusions.

Manga fans can meet authors and illustrators Rumi Hara, Jed Henry, and Misako Rocks! Visitors can also play shogi (Japanese chess) or go with local experts. In the Rotunda, visitors can view masterful origami displays by Taro Yaguchi of Taro’s Origami Studio and an exceptional demonstration in giant origami making by Frank Ling.


Japanese Market

The Japanese Market in the Osborne Garden offers Japanese sweets and unique shopping experiences. Foodies can sample exquisite wagashi desserts by Minamoto Kitchoan, confections by Sapporo-based Royce’ Chocolate and custom Sakura Matsuri chocolate flavors and more by Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate.

Visitors can also purchase vintage kimonos straight from Japan, delightful wooden kokeshi dolls handcrafted in northern Japan, Japanese pottery, tenugui wraps, manga-inspired accessories, sushi pillows and other items. Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore returns with a pop-up shop featuring Japanese novels, children’s books, cookbooks and more.


Kids and Families

Children and families can enjoy all-day performances as well as kid-centric activities, including a series of Sohenryu Family Tea Ceremonies with masters Soumi Shimizu and Sōkyo Shimizu, taiko drumming for families led by Hiro Kurashima of Taiko Masala, an origami workshop with Jeremy Aaron Horland, a tea-making workshop where kids can make their own herbal tea bag to take home, and cutout selfie stands that let kids picture themselves as a samurai warrior or daikon radish.

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