This year the Japan- America society of Washington D.C (JASWDC) has put together its 56th annual Sakura Matsuri.
Because of its growing amount of attendees, it was relocated from its original location on Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 14th Streets to the capital riverfront neighborhood on M street and New Jersey Avenue to provide more space. And not a square inch was wasted!
Vendors, entertainers, and people come from all over to celebrate.
But what exactly is this Sakura Matsuri I speak of?
Well in short Sakura Matsuri, also known as the cherry blossom street festival, is America’s largest one day celebration of Japanese culture. When the JASWDC started in 1957 one of its first assignment was to host Japan’s prime minister, Nobusuke Kishi, on June 22nd of that year. Prime Minister Kishi, valuing the importance of not only political relations but also educating and sharing one another’s cultural differences, has greatly influenced the society to start the cherry blossom festival.
The festival is held on the last day of the 4 week celebration (usually from mid. March to mid. April) every year, and each year the festival offers plenty of information on how to get involved in different communities, fun games and activities, delicious food, and special guests.Some of this year’s guests included:
Chef Rika Yukimasa, the star of Dining with the chef, who demonstrated how to make gyudon (a beef rice bowl) and onigiri (rice balls).
Domo-kun, the mascot of NHK world, will be making his second trip to D.C this year.
Kuropop. An entertainment group composed of 8 girls who cover Japanese and Korean Pop music and dance.
Tamagawa University’s Dance and Taiko Group, one of the top-ranking student based taiko groups from Japan’s top performing arts university.
Sebastian Masuda, an artist, and founder of the brand 6% DOKIDOKI. Mr. Masuda will be bringing is “Time after time capsule” project to D.C.
This project is a collection of items that have sentimental value that are then placed in a large capsule (Domo shaped in this case). The capsule, along with other capsules that have already been collected, will then be taken to Tokyo, Japan and placed in a larger piece of art. It will be displayed in a public facility during the 2020 Olympics.
The festival seamlessly blends traditional and popular culture together. It’s very common to see a person in a kimono then turn around and see another person in cosplay or a street style such as Lolita.
There was something to do at every turn like visiting a wishing tree (you basically write your wish on a small paper, tie it to a tree and watch it come true), practicing calligraphy …
or playing Kingyo-sukui (a game where you scoop fish or in this case small toys out of a pool of water while trying not to rip your paper net).
Attendees could also participate in the Time after time capsule by writing a note to yourself, wrapping it up, and tossing it into Domo-kun’s mouth. These letters will then be returned to the writer years later. Afterwards your picture would be taken in front of the capsule.
Taking pictures near capsule was only half the fun, members of the NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai television station) camera crew interviewed those who contributed to the capsule. After having your picture taken participants received a raffle ticket and potentially win a Domo notebook or a 6%DOKIDOKI badge.
Another really amazing thing was that the show Kawaii international held a contest to give kawaii lovers from all over a chance to ride on the Kawaii international float during the parade. Winners would ride alongside Sebastian Masuda, Rika Yukimasa, and Domo, and attend all associated events. Although I didn’t get very many pictures of the parade I did manage to talk to a few of the contest winners and take a couple of pictures as well.
I decided It was pretty good time to continue exploring. While walking around I saw a miniature train display, and you could actually see Godzilla wreaking havoc.
Several vendors were selling hand made goods like jewelry and home supplies. There were also multiple tents selling anime and manga related goods, lucky bags, and masks. I also spent some time at each of the stages, where live music, comedians, and performers gave it their all, and put on an amazing show after show. There was so much to do and see, but after spending over six hours of not stop excitement it was time for me to head home. This was overall a great experience; I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in Washington D.C during the spring.