By Jimmy Rivera
The name April comes from the Latin aperire, “to open,” and April is the month when flowers begin to bloom at public gardens. As if on cue, cherry blossoms have bloomed just in time for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Sakura Matsuri Festival.
The festival, which opens on April 27, dates back to 1981 and is a showcase for traditional Japanese culture.
“Sakura Matsuri is the country’s largest event in a public garden,” said Kate Blumm, a communications manager at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “It really speaks to what the people of New York City and Brooklyn want to see and experience here at BBG.”
In 1885, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, traveled to Japan, fell in love with the cherry blossoms and recommended that they be planted in Washington, where the blooming has become a major tourist attraction.
Blumm said the Sakura Matsui Festival is a way to “pay homage to our incredible collection of Japanese flowering cherry trees here at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.”
Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, is planning to attend the Sakura Matsuri Festival on Sunday. He said this is the time of year when people are treated to a rare spectacle and one of the most beautiful sights in New York City and added, “a love of these beautiful flowers is only one of the many reasons Brooklyn and Japan have a ‘blooming’ relationship.”
The garden has planned more than 60 performances, demonstrations and exhibits. Some performers come directly from Japan, including The Asterplace and Zakuro Chindon, an all-female marching band. Returning from last year’s festival are the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York’s hanagasa odori (a flower hat dance) procession, Samurai Sword Soul and traditional tea ceremonies. Children’s activities include origami workshops and pinwheel making.
“It’s kind of unique something that people really excited to see,” said Nattaphol Thanataveeratcrom, a 25-year-old tourist from Thailand who came with his girlfriend. “We just arrived just yesterday.”
This was his first time admiring the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “After one month, it’s all gone,” he noted.