It may feel as if spring reverted to winter, but cherry blossom season is upon us in New York!
Every season Japanese and Japanophiles alike anticipate the arrival of sakura (cherry blossoms), as the flowers represent rebirth and renewal while reminding us how precious and fleeting life can be.
At this time of year, our social media feeds are flooded with pictures of the white and pink blossoms and people partying underneath the branches. Did you know that New Yorkers can hanami with the best of them in each of the five boroughs?
To enjoy the beauty of the blossoms while they last, here are nine places to see sakura in each borough as well as a list of upcoming cherry blossom festivals in our area.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
While BBG is known for its tremendous Sakura Matsuri, a two-day celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture, you can enjoy the blossoms and hanami activities throughout the spring. This year the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden celebrated its 100th anniversary with a ceremonial tree planting conducted by Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Consul General of Japan in New York, and Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador of the United States to Japan.
- New York Botanical Garden
Not to be confused with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has more than 200 flowering cherry trees of its own. You can find them in the Garden’s Cherry Valley, in the Arboretum, and in front of the Conservatory.
- Central Park
There are two types of cherry blossoms you can find in Central Park: Kwanzan and Yoshino. The Yoshino are in bloom now, and they are located on the east side of the Reservoir, along Lilac Walk (northeast of Sheep Meadow), Conservatory Water, Ramble (near 72nd Street), Delacorte Theater (near 80th Street), and at the southeast edge of Great Lawn.The Kwanzan trees have double-petal pink flowers that typically bloom in early May. You can find them on the west side of the Reservoir, East Green, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art (E. 83rd and 84th Streets), East Drive at 74th Street, Bethesda Terrace (at 72nd Street), near the Loeb Boathouse, and at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn Oval.
- Sakura Park
A hidden gem in the city, Sakura Park lies between Riverside Church and International House and due east of Grant’s Tomb (officially named General Grant National Memorial). In 1909 the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented 2,000 cherry trees to New York City as a gift from Japan to commemorate the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery and exploration of the river that bears his name as well as the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s steam-powered boat demonstration. The boat carrying these trees was lost at sea, but a new shipment arrived in New York in 1912.
- Cherry Walk at Riverside Park
In addition to Sakura Park, the Cherry Walk is one of the places where trees given by the Committee of Japanese Residents were planted. This four-mile path along the Hudson River stretches from W. 72nd Street to W. 158th Street, and the trees, which are a part of Riverside Park, bloom between 100th and 125th Streets.For recent pictures of Sakura Park and Cherry Walk, please visit JapanCulture•NYC’s flickr album.
- Roosevelt Island
Occupying a sliver of space in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island has 600 cherry trees that line the promenade near the 59th Street Bridge. When the trees are in full bloom, it’s stunning to see them from the tram.
- Randall’s Island
Nestled between East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Astoria, Randall’s Island is a stunning recreational park with state-of-the-art sports facilities. In addition to cherry trees, the Urban Farm is home to four of New York City’s only rice paddies, growing six different varieties of rice from around the world.
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Another hidden gem is a grove of cherry trees located near the World’s Fair site at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Japanese American Association of New York first conceived the idea of a “21st Century New York Cherry Blossom Project” in 1992, and 168 trees were planted in 2001 after being nurtured at Van Cortlandt Park for several years. Working in close cooperation with the Flushing Meadows Corona Park staff, JAA has donated and planted hundreds of sakura trees.
- Silver Lake Park
Located on Staten Island’s north shore, Silver Lake Park is the Central Park of Staten Island. A one-time location for ice harvesting, Silver Lake Park is home to Japanese flowering cherry trees.
2016 Sakura Matsuri Festivals in NYC and Beyond
- JAA’s 12th Sakura Matsuri
Saturday, April 23 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The Japanese American Association will hold its 12th Sakura Matsuri at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Saturday, April 23. The program begins at 11:00 a.m. rain or shine and features performances by taiko drumming group Soh Daiko, the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York, the JAA Chorus, and the New York Okinawa Club with Jimpu-Kai New York. In addition, there will be a tea ceremony on the lawn by the Urasenke Tea Ceremony Society. Bring a blanket and a picnic lunch and enjoy the cherry blossoms!
For pictures of the 2015 JAA Sakura Matsuri, please visit JapanCulture•NYC’s flickr album.
- Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Festival
Sunday, April 24 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Branch Brook Park – Park Avenue and Lake Street, Newark, NJ
The first county park in the U.S. that was open to the public, Branch Brook Park boasts 2,000 cherry trees, donated to the Essex County Park System in 1927 by Caroline Bamberger Fuld in memory of her late husband, department store owner and philanthropist Felix Fuld.
Each year the Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Festival hosts Japanese cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, food, crafts, and more.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri
Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1 from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – 150 Eastern Parkway & 900 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn
Admission: $25 adults/$20 seniors and students/Free children under 12 and BBG members
Popularly considered New York’s rite of spring and the nation’s largest event in a public garden, BBG’s Sakura Matsuri features performances, demonstrations, and exhibits that showcase the best of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. There will be more than 60 events and performances that will satisfy people with any interest in Japan, from tea ceremonies and ikebana to manga workshops. A variety of Japanese-related goods will be on sale as well. With the popularity of BBG’s Parasol Society Fashion Show and annual Cosplay Fashion Show, Sakura Matsuri has attracted one of the largest, most colorful audiences for any cultural event in the city.
Advice: Buy your tickets in advance.
For pictures of last year’s BBG Sakura Matsuri, please visit JapanCulture•NYC’s flickr album.
- Roosevelt Island’s Fifth Annual Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday, April 30 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Manhattan Park Theater Club – 30 River Road, #1B
Celebrate the beauty of Roosevelt Island’s spectacular cherry blossom trees with community events sponsored by Roosevelt Island Residents Association. The lineup includes performances of traditional and contemporary music, demonstrations of martial arts and other activities.
- Japan Center at Stony Brook’s Cherry Blossom Festival
Sunday, May 1 from noon until 5:00 p.m.
Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center – 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, NY
Admission: $20/$15 seniors and students/$5 children ages 5-12/Free children under 4
Kaoru Watanabe and his Taiko group, Masayo Ishigure and her Koto ensemble, and Junko Fisher and her Okinawan Dance company will light up the stage and dazzle you with a variety of Japanese art, dance, and music. Daniel Nyohaku Soergel will perform on the Shakuhachi in the Bamboo Atrium throughout the day. Various activities for children and adults such as origami, manga drawing lessons, martial arts workshops, tea ceremonies, haiku, ikebana, karate, and more highlight this vibrant festival. In addition, CosplayNYC magazine will present a Cosplay Fashion Show, and there will be a screening of selected anime shorts. More info: www.ryushukan.com.
- 17th White Plains Sakura Matsuri
Sunday, May 1 fro 11:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Turnure Park – 26 Lake Street, White Plains
The White Plains Parks and Recreation Department and the Niji Noh Kai Japanese Education Center present traditional Japanese music, dance, storytelling, games, and crafts in a setting surrounded by more than 60 cherry blossom trees.
- Randall’s Island Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday, May 14 from noon until 4:00 p.m.
Randall’s Island Field 62, 63 next to Urban Farm and the Playground (Follow the southern shoreline pathway from the 103rd Street Bridge)
Randall’s Island Park Alliance presents its fourth annual Cherry Blossom Festival with family-friendly activities inspired by Japanese culture. Enjoy live music, performances, face painting, and exhibitions. There will be arts and crafts, a butterfly release, taiko drumming, Okinawan dance, and calligraphy.
The Cherry Blossom Festival coincides RIPA’s annual FLOW Grand Opening, a site-specific art installation held in collaboration with participants in the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace program for emerging artists.
Where is your favorite place to view cherry blossoms? Let us know in the comments. Happy o-hanami, everyone!