The cooler weather last week reminded me of early spring, and this week’s humidity is making me long for those days. So here’s a flashback to April and the Sakura Matsuri at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
It’s the granddaddy of the area’s cherry blossom festivals, still going strong – and some would say it’s getting even stronger – after 34 years. Spanning two days, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri covers practically every aspect of Japanese culture. Whether you prefer traditional or contemporary, ikebana or cosplay, there’s something for everyone.
You could stick to the schedule, which is blocked out in thirty-minute increments and jam-packed with activities, workshops, and performances by local talent and artists from Japan, or you could enjoy the festival Japanese-style, setting up under the cherry blossom trees for a little picnic, o-hanami, and people-watching action. JC•NYC Fashion Editor Jen Green and I chose the latter, with a little strolling around the vast expanse of the gardens, for a full and enjoyable day.
Although the sakura weren’t in full bloom along the Cherry Esplanade, throngs of matsuri-goers spread out blankets under the trees, chatting happily while eating bento and sipping sake purchased after standing in long lines and paying cash only. (Memo to self: Hit the ATM before arrival.)
A leisurely walk through the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden or a look at the bonsai and ikebana displays added an extra bit of Japanese nature. Among the gorgeous ikebana arrangements by the students of Fumiko Allinder from Sogetsu School were the handcrafted dolls of the Mataro Ningyo Doll Museum. Depicting scenes of daily life during the four seasons, the dolls, whose beginnings can be traced to mid-18th century Kyoto, are a microcosm of the beauty of Japanese culture.
Once again the Osborne Garden was the spot for contemporary Japanese culture, with cosplay panel discussions led by writer/journalist/cosplay superstar Charles Battersby; standup comedy by Uncle Yo; sales of Japan-related books by Kate T. Williamson, Abby Denson, and Misako Rocks!; and hands-on workshops featuring origami, taiko drumming, and magic. Vintage kimono stood side-by-side with kawaii accessories.
The Sixth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show closed out the weekend with a look at spectacular costumes inspired by manga, anime, and pop culture from both Japan and the US. Participants showed off their handmade ensembles to the original music of high-energy taiko drumming troupe Taiko Masala.
It was a lovely end to a festival that helps us all explore our favorite parts about Japanese culture.
To view more pictures of Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri, please visit JC•NYC’s Flickr album.