Brooklyn Botanic Garden Plans Sakura Matsuri

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BROOKLYN—From April 4 to May 10, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) celebrates Hanami, the Japanese cultural tradition of viewing and cherishing each moment of the cherry blossom season, from the first buds to the pink blossoms that fall like enchanted, delicate snow.

During Hanami, visitors can track the cherry display using Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s award-winning website’s CherryWatch feature, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., take a Seasonal Highlights Tour focusing on the ethereal beauty of cherry blossoms. The Zagat-rated Terrace Café will offer a selection of special Japanese entrées throughout the season, and the Garden Gift Shop will present an exceptional Hanami Collection at the Gift Shop, both in the garden and online at shop.bbg.org.

Popularly referred to as “New York’s rite of spring,” the garden’s two-day cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri, is scheduled for May 2 and 3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, with over 50 performances, demonstrations, and exhibits—many of which are new and especially created for the dynamic weekend celebration. Visitors of all ages are welcome.

Hanami is the Japanese name for cherry blossom viewing, around which the Japanese have long-established customs, including sitting under the boughs of cherry trees and trapping falling petals in cups of sake. The sweet blush of the blossoms has captured the hearts and minds of the Japanese for centuries; BBG’s cherry blossoms are sure to captivate the imagination of all those who stroll beneath the garden’s cherry tree collection.

Japanese flowering cherries can be found throughout Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Special highlighted concentrations of cherries can be found in the following areas: Cherry Esplanade, a broad field with 76 specimens of the bright pink Prunus ‘Kanzan’ cherry; Cherry Walk, a meandering path east of Cherry Esplanade and behind the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden; between Cherry Walk and Cherry Esplanade, which is planted with cherry cultivars; and the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, where cherries are planted throughout, in particular the weeping Higan cherry, Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’.

Hanami culminates with Sakura Matsuri, the nation’s largest event in a public garden. Sakura Matsuri celebrates nature and renewal, and the garden’s two-day festival of Japanese culture, arts, and performances for all ages is a tribute to the garden’s iconic collection of flowering cherry trees. As Hanami draws to its seasonal conclusion, visitors delight in experiencing the cherry blossoms cascading from the trees to create a petal carpet—a tradition thought to bring good luck.

Visitors to BBG this spring are invited to share their cherry blossom images on the garden’s Hanami photo pool on Flickr.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s peerless collection of cherry trees—the largest and most diverse outside Japan—creates a canopy of blossoms in the spring worthy of celebration. Over the course of its 28-year history, Sakura Matsuri has evolved into one of the city’s most anticipated weekend events, as tens of thousands of visitors come to experience not only the breathtaking beauty of the cherry tree’s fleeting blossoms but also to learn about Japanese culture both traditional and contemporary through two days of music, dance, martial arts, food, film, workshops, demonstrations, and guided tours of the Garden’s plant collections.

Plus, this year at Sakura Matsuri, three programs will be presented in collaboration with the hugely popular N.Y. Anime Festival, which will bring the finest in Japanese anime and manga talent to the garden for both devotees and the simply curious to explore. One program, Manga & Anime Artist Alley, is part of the expanded Sakura J-Lounge—which features more music, more dancers, and the addition of several famed Japanese comic artists signing their colorful works. Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be the No. 1 springtime destination for anime, cosplay, manga, and Japanese pop and rock from the 1960s to the present. In addition, Samurai Beat Radio will be broadcasting live from the J-Lounge to several stations in Japan!

Festival hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All activities take place rain or shine, with indoor locations provided for all activities in the event of rain. Tickets are available through www.TicketWeb.com; for same-day ticket information, visit bbg.org or call 718-623-7200. A detailed schedule of the festival is available at bbg.org/sakuramatsuri, and information is available by calling the public events hotline (beginning late March) at 718-623-7333. Admission fees of $12 for adults and $6 for students and seniors will be charged all weekend, including Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. (On all Saturdays without public programs scheduled, the Garden will continue to extend free admission from 10 a.m. to noon.)

New to Sakura Matsuri This Year:

· Ai Kawashima is a national J-pop star in Japan, where listeners are captivated by her angelic voice and have purchased over one million copies of her debut single.

· The Uncle Yo Otaku and Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Photo Shoot, presented with the NY Anime Festival, is an opportunity for the thousands of Sakura Matsuri attendees in costume—especially wild anime getups—to giggle along with anime comedian Uncle Yo Otaku. Then, join the spectacularly attired World Cosplay Summit Team USA for 15 seconds of fame under the bright lights and brilliant blossoms during the official Sakura Matsuri photo shoot! Photos will be uploaded to BBG’s Hanami Flickr pool.

· The Oiran Dochu Courtesan Procession and Traditional Kimono Show re-creates the visually magnificent procession of courtesans typical of 17th-century Japan, during the Edo period, followed by a dazzling kimono fashion show.

· Kagero is a Brooklyn-based Japanese Gypsy Rock group with an “urban-gypsophonic,” border-jumping, progressive feel-good sound.

· Samurai Beat Radio, featuring renowned DJ Megumi Sato of Tokyo FM, broadcasts live from the Sakura J-Lounge, sharing the excitement of Sakura Matsuri with several radio stations in Japan!

· The New York premiere of Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story will transfix visitors with its documentary telling of the first Japanese-American basketball player in the NBA, in the 1940s. Afterward, viewers can participate in a Q+A with the filmmakers.

· J-pop vocalist Minami Kuzuki hails from Japan’s Amami Islands and sings irresistible folk-inflected pop tunes while playing the shamisen.

· The Art of Gogyohka, presented by groundbreaking Japanese poet Enta Kusakabe, takes visitors through his creation of this original five-line poetry form and signs copies of his recently published collection.

· Award-winning manga creator Misako Rocks! presents Misako Rocks! A Crazy Comic Life—the scoop on her childhood in Japan and other inspirations for her colorful autobiographical comics.

· Funny Voices: Anime Voice Actor Roundtable brings together New York City’s hottest anime voice talents—including several voice actors heard on the international smash cartoon series Pokémon—for a moderated discussion. Presented in conjunction with the N.Y. Anime Festival.

Returning Favorites:

· The Sakura J-Lounge, on the grounds of the elegant Osborne Garden, offers festival-goers four top East Coast DJs spinning the finest in Japanese music, each in their own distinctive styles. On Saturday, Boston-based DJ 2Thirteen takes inspiration from his highly successful Boston radio show to spin anime-themed tunes, and DJ Hayden Honey presents a set of pure Shibuya-kei, the fusion pop that has exploded out of the uber-hip Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo. Sunday brings the return of DJ Saiko Mikan spinning a set of Group Sounds—the buoyant genre of late-’60s Japanese rock—and the J-lounge welcomes Philadelphia DJ Eric B for the first time, who’ll shake things up with a set of ’60s Japanese grooves. The J-Lounge Dancers and Manga & Anime Artist Alley electrify the J-Lounge at various times throughout the weekend.

· Taiko Drumming by Soh Daiko and Taiko Masala energetically perform this ancient percussive art in riveting forms—both modern and traditional—for festival visitors.

· The AnimeNEXT Manga Library offers families the chance to peruse hundreds of exquisitely illustrated nature-inspired comics provided by AnimeNEXT.

· Samurai Sword Soul presents a new original piece, Bushido: The Soul of Samurai, combining martial arts with samurai swordplay and music to dazzle audience members of all ages.

· Renowned manga artist and Manga for Dummies author Kensuke Okabayashi presents a character-sketching lecture for all cartoon manga enthusiasts.

· During a Children’s Suzuki Recital, children ages 4 through 13 from Brooklyn College’s Preparatory Center for the Performing Arts perform a string version of the Japanese folk song “Sakura, Sakura” as well as other classical music selections.

· The Japanese Folk Institute of New York presents a visually stunning performance of the Hanagasa Odori (Flower Hat Dance).

· Precocious performers abound, including the pint-size ensemble Genki Daiko, who perform a thrilling kids’ taiko drum show.

· Urasenke Chanoyu Center presents a Traditional Tea Ceremony, demonstrating the ancient, elegant, and meticulous art form of preparing and serving tea.

· Craft demonstrations of washi ningyo and mataro ningyo doll making use beautiful patterned paper, wood, and cloth to fashion delicate artisanal dolls.

· In a special Sushi Pillow Photo Op, visitors can cozy up to whimsical sushi-shaped pillows designed by the Original Sushi Pillow.

· View Japanese classical dance from Sachiyo Ito & Company, featuring breathtaking costumes and makeup, accompanied by the Sonny Ochiai Quartet.

· A koto and shamisen concert by Masayo Ishigure and the Miyabi Koto Shamisen Institute will showcase the delicate sounds of these stringed instruments, which are imbued with a long history and powerful cultural meaning in Japan.

· See a striking exhibit of Ikebana flower arranging and a demonstration of this beautiful and disciplined art by ikebana master Fumiko Allinder.

· Meet the curator of BBG’s world-famous bonsai collection and watch a demonstration of this ancient horticultural art, Bonsai Pruning Techniques.

Sakura Matsuri tickets are available through www.TicketWeb.com. For same-day ticket information, visit bbg.org or call 718-623-7200. A special menu at the Garden’s Terrace Café also highlights the culinary traditions of Japan. Festival-goers can purchase Japanese food, beer, and sake on Cherry Esplanade. Visitors can also take home Japanese and cherry blossom–themed items like sushi pillows, haiku books, sugar-cane confections, plus Japanese treasures from the garden and gift Shops, or order from the online gift shop at shop.bbg.org.


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