Sakura Matsuri: The Cherry Blossoms of Brooklyn!

Akim Funk Buddha's Urban Tea Ceremony at Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn ©Mark D Phillips

Sakura Matsuri: The Cherry Blossoms of Brooklyn!

Park Slope

UPDATED: Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG) cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri—popularly considered New York City’s rite of spring and the largest annual event in a U.S. public garden—returns for its 34th year on April 25 and 26, 2015.

SouthBrooklyn.com attended a preview of several of the performers and the grounds on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Prepare yourself, the Cherry Esplanade is a long way from full blooming. It was disappointing to see only a couple of the trees in full bloom. Most of the trees were barren. But the performances were dynamic, and the festival will go on whether the trees are ready or not. The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden was close.


Cherry Esplanade Panorama at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Taking place during Hanami, the Japanese tradition of enjoying each moment of the cherry blossom season, Sakura Matsuri festivities extend beyond the celebration of BBG’s spring blooms with more than 60 dynamic music and dance performances, art and horticulture demonstrations, and special exhibits showcasing traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. The festival’s distinctive entertainment and community spirit attracts one of the largest, most colorful audiences for a cultural event in New York City.

In addition to traditional crafts and art forms, visitors this year can see innovative mash-ups of old and new Japanese arts and culture. New this year is Akim Funk Buddha’s Urban Tea Ceremony, the hip-hop performance artist’s remix of the traditional Japanese ritual, presented on Cherry Esplanade's Main Stage on Saturday. The much-anticipated Sixth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show, energized this year by live original music by Brooklyn-based drumming ensemble Taiko Masala, closes out the festival in exuberant fashion on Sunday.

Artists traveling from Japan to perform at Sakura Matsuri include Takarabune Dance, masters of the traditional Awa Odori; Tokyo comedian Kaori, presenting her “cool Japan” stand-up routine; and tea ceremony master Soumi Shimizu. Returning favorites include martial arts masters Samurai Sword Soul, led by longtime Sakura Matsuri MC Yoshi Amao; taiko drumming ensembles, including Soh Daiko and Cobu; the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York’s Hanagasa Odori Parade (flower hat dance); Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, presenting classical dance; the fashionistas of the BBG Parasol Society; and talks and workshops with manga and cosplay artists.

Additional programs include tours of BBG’s Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden; traditional tea ceremony performances; bonsai presentations; an exhibit and workshop on ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging; and a Japanese marketplace featuring art, handmade crafts, vintage kimonos and fabrics; and sweets from Japan—including chocolate and maccha creations from Royce’ Chocolate Shop of Hokkaido and treats from Minamoto Kitchoan Wagashi Shop.

Sakura Matsuri favorites returning in 2015 include:

  • Taiko drumming by Soh Daiko, Taiko Masala, Cobu, and NY Suwa Taiko Kids All Stars
  • Samurai Sword Soul’s new action-packed martial arts drama led by Sakura Matsuri MC Yoshi Amao
  • The Sixth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show, featuring original music by Taiko Masala
  • Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, presenting elegant and colorful Kabuki Buyo dance
  • The Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York’s beloved hanagasa odori (flower hat dance) procession
  • BBG’s Parasol Society Fashion Show, a prim and proper pageant of grand proportions featuring live music by the Hanami ensemble
  • Traditional tea ceremonies with Urasenke Chanoyu Center and Japanese masters Soumi Shimizu and Sōkyo Shimizu.
  • Ikebana flower arranging
  • Vintage kimonos for sale from YokoDana Kimono
  • “The Art of Bonsai,” talk by BBG bonsai curator Julian Velasco and display of BBG’s famed bonsai collection
  • Tour of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, led by BBG Garden Guides

BBG’s Osborne Garden will feature manga and other contemporary Japanese culture, including:

  • The Battersby Show, with cosplay superstar Charles Battersby and panelists discussing the nature of cosplay and cosplay crafting
  • Book Signings with authors and illustrators including Kate T. Williamson, Jed Henry, Rumi Hara, Misako Rocks, and Abby Denson
  • The J-Lounge manga journal, where festival visitors can sketch their favorite Sakura Matsuri sightings
  • Stand-Up Comic Uncle Yo, with geek comedy for the American otaku

Kids’ activities include:

  • Hands-on workshops, including photo-op boards, origami, taiko drumming, a handmade teabag craft project, and manga drawing
  • A children’s Suzuki recital and kids’ taiko performance to introduce the next generation of music masters
  • The J-Lounge manga journal—Junior Edition, where kid artists are invited to add their artwork to an ongoing and expanding installation
  • Magician Rich Kameda, performing classic tricks with a Japanese twist


Click the map for updated status on the BBG Website!

The annual cherry display is tracked on BBG’s CherryWatch webpage, which maps the main part of the collection and provides a daily blooming status for each tree, as well as detailed information about each cultivar. This year, the Garden encourages visitors to share their own cherry blossom images—amateur or professional—on social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, using the hashtag #brooklynbotanic. Photographers can also post images in BBG’s visitor photo pool on Flickr.

Admission to Sakura Matsuri is $25 for adults and $20 for students (12 to 17) and seniors (65 and over). BBG members and children under 12 years of age enter for free. Admission fees will be charged all weekend during Sakura Matsuri. Events are free with festival admission and will be held rain or shine.

Advance tickets can be purchased online, here. Brooklyn Botanic Garden members and ticket holders skip the lines. Visit bbg.org/support/join to become a BBG member.

Full Schedule

APRIL 25

MAIN STAGE AT CHERRY ESPLANADE
Noon–12:45    Soh Daiko; Thunderous taiko drumming
1:15–2:00    Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito; Elegant and colorful Kabuki Buyo dance
2:15–3:00    Samurai Sword Soul; Action-packed drama by martial arts masters
3:15–4:00    Takarabune Dance; Awa Odori dance and narimono drum ensemble from Shikoku, Japan
4:15–4:45    BBG Parasol Society Fashion Show; Featuring live music by the Hanami Ensemble; A prim and proper pageant of grand proportions; Apply to the Parasol Society (PDF)
5:00–6:00    Akim Funk Buddha’s Urban Tea Ceremony; An unparalleled cross-cultural experience

J-LOUNGE STAGE AT OSBORNE GARDEN
11:00–11:30    Stand-up Comic Kaori; Tokyo’s rising star of “cool Japan” comedy
Noon–1:00    The Battersby Show: Beginner Cosplay Crafting; Cosplay superstar Charles Battersby chats with panelists Ann Milana, Lady Ava, Mink-the-Satyr, and Uncle Yo.
1:15–1:45    Stand-up Comic Uncle Yo; Geek comedy for the American otaku
2:00–3:00    The Battersby Show: Intermediate Cosplay Skills; Cosplay superstar Charles Battersby offers tips for taking your cosplay to the next level, with panelists Aleta Pardalis, Ann Milana, Lady Ava, and Mink-the-Satyr.
3:15–3:45    Stand-up Comic Uncle Yo; Geek comedy for the American otaku
4:15–4:45    Hanagasa Odori Parade; Flower hat dance with the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York.

BONSAI, IKEBANA & TORII TOURS
10:00–5:00    Japanese Garden Stroll; A guided tour of BBG’s cloud-pruned trees, torii gate, and coy koi; Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden
10:00–5:00    C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum; Enjoy the Garden’s world-class collection of teeny trees.; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Bonsai Basics; Consult the aficionados from the Friends of Bonsai club.; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Living Sculpture Bonsai Exhibit; A rare peek at the Friends of Bonsai club’s private collection; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibit; The art of Japanese flower arranging on display; Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium
1:00–2:00    Sogetsu Ikebana Demonstration; Flower arranging with Yoko Ikura and Shoko Iwata; Auditorium

TRADITIONAL ARTS & GAMES
10:00–5:00    Mataro Ningyo Doll Museum; Kimekomi Doll Club; Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium
1:00–5:00    Sakura Game Stop: Shogi Chess; New York Shogi Club; Osborne Garden
1:00–5:00    Sakura Game Stop: The Game of Go; Brooklyn Go Club; Osborne Garden
3:00–3:45    Urasenke Tea Ceremony; Urasenke Chanoyu Center; Auditorium
4:15–5:00    Urasenke Tea Ceremony; Urasenke Chanoyu Center; Auditorium

J-LOUNGE GALLERY AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    Kate T. Williamson Watercolors; Cherry blossoms, sumo wrestlers, and everything in between
10:00–5:00    Rumi Hara Illustrations; From basic black ink to colorful contemporary whimsy
10:00–5:00    Ukiyo-e Heroes Woodblock and Giclée Prints; Jed Henry blends iconic video game characters with Edo-era art traditions.
11:00–11:45    Ukiyo-e Illustration Demonstration with Artist Jed Henry; See video game characters reimagined before your eyes.
11:00–5:00    CosplayNYC Magazine: Be a Poser; Learn to pose for photo shoots like a pro.
2:00–2:45    Ukiyo-e Illustration Demonstration with Artist Jed Henry; See video game characters reimagined before your eyes.
3:00–5:00    The Return of Japanese Wolves Book Signing; Meet creator Rumi Hara.
3:00–5:00    A Year in Japan Book Signing; Meet artist Kate T. Williamson.

MANGA MADNESS AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    J-Lounge Manga Journal; Calling manga artists! Sketch your favorite Sakura sightings and add them to this expanding art installation.
10:00–5:00    Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen Book Signing; Meet author-illustrator Abby Denson and pick up a copy of her brand-new travel guide.
10:00–5:00    The Foreigner and Manga for Dummies Book Signings; Meet manga creator Kensuke Okabayashi.
Noon–12:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
1:15–2:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
2:00–3:00    Rock and Roll Love Book Signing; Meet manga maven Misako Rocks.
3:00–3:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
4:15–5:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).

KID STUFF AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    J-Lounge Manga Journal—Junior Edition; Calling manga artists ages 3 to 10! Sketch your favorite Sakura sightings and add them to this expanding art installation.
10:00–5:00    Samurai Selfie; Pose in your favorite warrior cutouts.
10:00–5:00    You Look Radishing! Pose as a daikon radish.
Noon–12:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
1:00–5:00    Brew for You; Make your own tea bag to take home.
1:00–5:00    Samurai Origami Workshop; Fold a paper helmet with Jeremy Aaron Horland.
1:15–2:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
3:00–3:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
4:15–5:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).

JAPANESE MARKET AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    Minamoto Kitchoan Wagashi Shop; Seasonal Japanese confections and treats
10:00–5:00    Royce’ Chocolate Shop; Chocolate and maccha creations from Hokkaido, Japan
10:00–5:00    Sakura Creations Graphic Tees; Wearable Japanese art
10:00–5:00    Tenugui Wraps; Cool cotton cloths by Wuhao Tenugui Art
10:00–5:00    Ito En Fine Teas; Japan’s largest green tea distributor
10:00–5:00    J-Fashion Accessories; Handcrafted kawaii adornments by Un-Re Designs
10:00–5:00    Tabi Socks, Ninja Boots, and Wooden Geta Shoes; Japanese footwear from Greentea Design
10:00–5:00    Community Bookstore Sakura Shop; An array of Japanese reads
10:00–5:00    Japanese Wall Scrolls; Brush paintings from Greentea Design
10:00–5:00    Vintage Kimonos; Fashions straight from Japan by YokoDana Kimono

APRIL 26

MAIN STAGE AT CHERRY ESPLANADE
Noon–12:45    Cobu; Taiko and tap with an urban twist
1:00–1:45    Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito; Elegant and colorful Kabuki Buyo dance
2:00–2:45    Samurai Sword Soul; Action-packed drama by martial arts masters
3:00–3:45    Japanese Folk Dance Institute of NY; Vibrant traditional Minbu dances
4:00–4:15    NY Suwa Taiko Kids All Stars; The next generation of taiko talent
4:15–5:00    Taiko Masala; Traditional taiko drumming and martial arts, Brooklyn-style
5:15–6:00    The Sixth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show; Original Music by Taiko Masala; The East Coast’s premier outdoor showcase of cosplay’s finest

J-LOUNGE STAGE AT OSBORNE GARDEN
11:00–11:45    Taiko Drumming for Families; A kiddie master class with Hiro Kurashima of Taiko Masala
Noon–12:45    Awa Odori Parade; A festive procession by Takarabune Dance from Shikoku, Japan
1:00–2:00    The Battersby Show: What Is Cosplay?; Renowned cosplayer Charles Battersby joins panelists Aleta Pardalis, Dokudel, Mario Bueno, Uncle Yo, and YuffieBunny to answer the age-old question, “Why are they dressed like that?”
2:15–2:45    Magician Rich Kameda; Classic illusions with a Japanese twist
3:00–3:45    Awa Odori Parade; A festive procession by Takarabune Dance from Shikoku, Japan
4:00–4:30    Magician Rich Kameda; Classic illusions with a Japanese twist

BONSAI, IKEBANA & TORII TOURS
10:00–5:00    Japanese Garden Stroll; A guided tour of BBG’s cloud-pruned trees, torii gate, and coy koi; Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden
10:00–5:00    C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum; Enjoy the Garden’s world-class collection of teeny trees.; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Bonsai Basics; Consult the aficionados from the Friends of Bonsai club.; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Living Sculpture Bonsai Exhibit; A rare peek at the Friends of Bonsai club’s private collection.; Steinhardt Conservatory
10:00–5:00    Sogetsu Ikebana Exhibit; The art of Japanese flower arranging on display; Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium
4:00–5:00    The Art of Bonsai; A special talk by BBG bonsai curator Julian Velasco; Auditorium

TRADITIONAL ARTS & GAMES
10:00–5:00    Mataro Ningyo Doll Museum; Kimekomi Doll Club; Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium
1:00–5:00    Sakura Game Stop: The Game of Go; Brooklyn Go Club; Osborne Garden
1:00–5:00    Sakura Game Stop: Shogi Chess; New York Shogi Club; Osborne Garden
1:00–2:00    Sohenryu-Style Tea Ceremony; Tea masters Soumi Shimizu and Sōkyo Shimizu; Auditorium
2:30–3:30    Sohenryu-Style Tea Ceremony; Tea masters Soumi Shimizu and Sōkyo Shimizu; Auditorium

J-LOUNGE GALLERY AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    Kate T. Williamson Watercolors; Cherry blossoms, sumo wrestlers, and everything in between
10:00–5:00    Rumi Hara Illustrations; From basic black ink to colorful contemporary whimsy
10:00–5:00    Ukiyo-e Heroes Woodblock and Giclée Prints; Illustrator Jed Henry blends iconic video game characters with Edo-era art traditions.
11:00–11:45    Ukiyo-e Illustration Demonstration with Artist Jed Henry; See video game characters reimagined before your eyes.
11:00–5:00    CosplayNYC Magazine: Be a Poser; Learn to pose for photo shoots like a pro.
2:00–2:45    Ukiyo-e Illustration Demonstration with Artist Jed Henry; See video game characters reimagined before your eyes.
3:00–5:00    The Return of Japanese Wolves Book Signing; Meet creator Rumi Hara.
3:00–5:00    A Year in Japan Book Signing; Meet artist Kate T. Williamson.

MANGA MADNESS AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    J-Lounge Manga Journal; Calling manga artists! ; Sketch your favorite Sakura sightings and add them to this expanding art installation.
10:00–5:00    Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen Book Signing; Meet author-illustrator Abby Denson and pick up a copy of her brand-new travel guide.
10:00–5:00    The Foreigner and Manga for Dummies Book Signings; Meet manga creator Kensuke Okabayashi.
Noon–12:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
1:15–2:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
2:00–3:00    Rock and Roll Love Book Signing; Meet manga maven Misako Rocks.
3:00–3:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).
4:15–5:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).

KID STUFF
10:00–5:00    J-Lounge Manga Journal—Junior Edition; Calling manga artists ages 3 to 10!; Sketch your favorite Sakura sightings and add them to this expanding art installation.; Osborne Garden
10:00–5:00    Samurai Selfie; Pose in your favorite warrior cutouts.; Osborne Garden
10:00–5:00    You Look Radishing!; Pose as a daikon radish.; Osborne Garden
11:30–12:15    Children’s Suzuki Recital ; Classical strings from Brooklyn College Preparatory Center; Auditorium
Noon–12:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).; Osborne Garden
1:00–5:00    Brew for You; Make your own tea bag to take home.; Osborne Garden
1:00–5:00    Samurai Origami Workshop; Fold a paper helmet with Jeremy Aaron Horland.; Osborne Garden
1:15–2:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).; Osborne Garden
2:15–2:45    Magician Rich Kameda; Classic illusions with a Japanese twist; J-Lounge Stage at Osborne Garden
3:00–3:45    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).; Osborne Garden
4:00–4:45    Magician Rich Kameda; Classic illusions with a Japanese twist; J-Lounge Stage at Osborne Garden
4:15–5:00    Manga Drawing with Misako Rocks; Join the manga master in a hands-on workshop (Ages 6 and up).; Osborne Garden

JAPANESE MARKET AT OSBORNE GARDEN
10:00–5:00    Minamoto Kitchoan Wagashi Shop; Seasonal Japanese confections and treats
10:00–5:00    Royce’ Chocolate Shop; Chocolate and maccha creations from Hokkaido, Japan
10:00–5:00    Sakura Creations Graphic Tees; Wearable Japanese art
10:00–5:00    Tenugui Wraps; Cool cotton cloths by Wuhao Tenugui Art
10:00–5:00    Ito En Fine Teas; Japan’s largest green tea distributor
10:00–5:00    J-Fashion Accessories; Handcrafted kawaii adornments by Un-Re Designs
10:00–5:00    Tabi Socks, Ninja Boots, and Wooden Geta Shoes; Japanese footwear from Greentea Design
10:00–5:00    Community Bookstore Sakura Shop; An array of Japanese reads
10:00–5:00    Japanese Wall Scrolls; Brush paintings from Greentea Design
10:00–5:00    Vintage Kimonos; Fashions straight from Japan by YokoDana Kimono

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an urban botanic garden that connects people to the world of plants, fostering delight and curiosity while inspiring an appreciation and sense of stewardship of the environment.

In the Garden, in its community, and well beyond, BBG inspires people of all ages through the conservation, display, and enjoyment of plants; with educational programs that emphasize learning by doing; and with research focused on understanding and conserving regional plants and plant communities.

Akim Funk Buddha's Urban Tea Ceremony ©Mark D Phillips
Akim Funk Buddha's Urban Tea Ceremony ©Mark D Phillips
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