Events — 30 April 2012
The 2012 Sakura Matsuri Festival at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Blog: The 2012 Sakura Matsuri Festival


The end of April tends to show off the true colors of spring. It’s also a time where we can visualize the impending summer. For residents of Brooklyn, there is only one true barometer to signal everything that’s great about the warmer months. Enter the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the hundred plus year old respite and learning center for the appreciation of all things plant-centric. On a regular basis BBG is a bustling venue for nature lovers of all ages. Once you enter the premises, you are instantly whisked away from all the stresses of the city. This past weekend the Garden’s full potential was on display for the 2012 Sakura Matsuri festival, a weekend celebration of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.

The festival was spread throughout the entire sprawling grounds of the Garden. It was so big in fact, that visitors could literally spend the entire day traveling deep into BBG to check out one of several exhibits, or just sit down on a bench and take it all in at once. We spent most of our visit hanging out in the ‘Osborne Garden’ where many of the events and hands on activities were taking place. This garden space also happens to be the home of BBG’s impressive collection of cherry blossom trees which have become fully bloom at month’s end. These blossoms are rich with deep colors, which all represent different members of the ‘red’ family and may even rival the much talked about Washington, DC variety.

The cherry blossoms were a perfect backdrop for the plethora of events that would take place in the garden throughout the day. And in keeping with traditional Japanese culture, there were a number of dance performances showing off the rich history of the arts in the storied country. For each exhibition, guests clamored to get the best view possible of dance styles they had never heard of before. One such example of this was the ‘Hanagasa Odori: Flower Hat Dance Procession.’ This eye catching performance featured a large group of local women donning simple straw hats decorated with synthetic flowers, dancing to centuries old folk music. The crowd was simply enthralled by this, as was yours truly.

Cosplay and Manga are two extremely popular aspects of Japanese youth culture and in recent years both of these cult-like hobbies have taken America by storm. For those of you not in the know, Cosplay, short for “costume play,” is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from pop-culture or the aforementioned Manga comics. Saturday’s Sakura Matsuri event was packed to the gills with creative men and woman, dressed to the nines in very inventive costumes representing their love of Manga. As soon as I walked through the garden gate, I spotted those who chose to group together to represent characters from one particular book all the way to guests who showed up with homemade weaponry.The sky was literally the limit as to what these folks could come up with. Needless to say, I’m coming dressed up next year.

What wasn’t there to love in a day filled with rich performances, insightful seminars, and bold self-expression? Throw in some gorgeous cherry blossoms and tons of other pretty foliage and you have a weekend to remember, right in the heart of Brooklyn, U.S.A.

- Jay Rubin

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