If you have friends in Japan, no doubt your Facebook news feed has been flooded with pictures of gorgeous cherry blossoms. Now it’s New York’s turn. Cherry blossom season is officially here, and the first celebration of it was Saturday at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the Japanese American Association of New York held its tenth Sakura Matsuri.
Yes, there are cherry blossom trees in Queens, thanks to the efforts of former JAA president and Sony America executive vice president Shigeru Inagaki. On Arbor Day 1992, Inagaki presented the City of New York with Yamazakura and Somei-Yoshino cherry tree seeds that were donated by the Cherry Association of Japan. After the seeds were nursed in the greenhouses of Van Cortlandt Park, the City of New York received 168 trees on April 3, 2001, which found a home in Queens.
The tenth observance featured Japanese cultural performances from taiko drumming troupe Soh Daiko, a karate demonstration by the amazing young people from World Oyama Karate Matsumoto Dojo, the JAA Chorus conducted by Yui Kitamura, and Momo Suzuki’s Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York. Local dignitaries Liam Kavanagh, the acting commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and Ambassador Sumio Kusaka, Consul General of Japan in New York gave speeches.
Following tradition, members of JAA and the Department of Parks and Recreation planted two more cherry trees, adding to the beauty of the grove, while families ate bento under the blossoms.