May 11

JQ Magazine: Brooklyn’s Cherry Blossom Festival Turns 30!

The view from Sakura Matsuri, held April 30-May 1 at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. (Sam Frank)

By Sam Frank, an ALT who taught English in Hiraizumi-Cho, Iwate Prefecture, from 2002-04 and worked in Shirahama-cho, Wakayama Prefecture as a JET from 2004-06. He currently manages the New York  Division of UnRated Magazine and works as a Project Manager/Web Producer at Arrow Root Media.

For three decades the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been home to the Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival, a two-day festival comprised of both traditional and contemporary Japanese arts and culture, including dance, martial arts, manga, costume play (“cosplay”), workshops, demonstrations, and guided tours of the Garden’s Japanese plant collections.

While Brooklynites view this tradition as an authentic Japanese experience, there are many differences between this festival and ones in Japan. When you think of cherry blossoms in Japan, there is one word that comes to mind: Hanami. Hanami usually consists of friends and familes having picnics under the trees, and often involves consuming large amounts of sake (Japanese rice wine). This happens because Japanese law doesn’t crack down on public consumption of alcohol, unlike our friendly officers in Brooklyn. Also, people in Brooklyn are only permitted to eat in certain restricted areas, whereas folks in Japan are not only able to eat wherever they want (or find a spot), but are allowed to bring outside food into the cherry blossom areas.

Although Brooklyn’s version of Sakura has a few more restrictions then its Japanese counterpart, the cultural shows, guest appearances, and unique events that take place at the Botanic Garden in early May add a special flavor to the experience.

Read the rest of the article and more photos, click here.

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