The classic D.C. springtime tradition, the Cherry Blossom Festival is already in full swing and runs until the end of April. The annual event is particularly special this year as it’s the 100th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 trees from the Mayor of Tokyo, representing an incredible relationship between Japan and the U.S.
Attracting thousands of tourists and bringing D.C. residents out to enjoy the first glimpses of spring, the Scene has picked out the best events of the festival season for you to enjoy.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, one of the parades unique to D.C., will run April 14 from 10 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. Dance troupes, choirs and bands from all over come to perform in this annual parade. Be sure to get there early and grab a spot by the National Archives entrance where the performance expands across the steps.
After the parade, head down to D.C.’s Japanese street party festival known as Sakura Matsuri from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dozens of Japanese craft vendors, food trucks and traditional and J-Pop performances await. The event will see a good turnout; so purchase your $5 tickets ahead of time to avoid lines. Simply go to http://www.sakuramatsuri.org to get tickets online.
If the parade and the street festival don’t satisfy your cherry blossom fix enough, take to the water via the Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. Get a whole new view of the cherry blossoms while paddling around with friends between 10 a.m. to noon. Another tip is to reserve online at http://www.tidalbasinpaddleboats.com/reservations.htm to cut past lines (silly tourists). The Tidal Basin Paddle Boat online reservations, with costs ranging from $12 per hour for a two passenger boat to $19 per hour for a four passenger boat.
Hit the museums
Museums throughout the city are also hosting Japanese cultural exhibits.
You only have to head to the American University Museum for the special, two-part exhibit “American University Celebrates Japanese Art & Culture.” New York-based artist Tomokazu Matsuyama combines traditional Edo and Meiji period imagery with contemporary motifs and patterning to blend Eastern and Western aesthetics in “Tomokazu Matsuyama: Thousand Regards.” The 70 prints borrowed from the Sakai Collection of the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in “Floating Worlds: 19th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints” examine the themes of Sakura, U.S. and Japanese relations and Japonism.
Library of congress
“Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship” highlights the integral relationship between Japan and the U.S. at the Library of Congress. Dozens of cherry blossom themed art and artifacts are on display in this exhibit that shouldn’t be missed. But if you’re in no rush, you’ll have plenty of time to see the exhibit, as it runs until September 2012.
Fireworks, kites and movies, oh my!
For fans of evening fireworks, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival on April 7 is for you. With multiple stages, catch some local bands and traditional Japanese performances and end the night with a spectacular fireworks display all while munching on some classic Japanese chicken yakitori and other Japanese cuisine treats.
The Blossom Kite Festival brings hundreds of people to the Mall March 31 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a free event that celebrates the art of kites, with kite-makers displaying their creations and competing against others in battles. You can bring your own kites or make a kite at an activity station while supplies last. Bring on the wind!
For any cinephiles, head to Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli” at the Freer/Sackler Meyer Auditorium April 15 at 11 a.m. for some of the best of Japanese animation. Selections this year include “Ponyo” about a fish with a Pinocchio-esque wish to become human while hilarity ensues, a swashbuckling aviator pig in “Porco Russo,” an epic battle between human nature and the environment in “Princess Mononoke” and Japan’s highest grossing film, Academy Award winner “Spirited Away.”
photos courtesy of Anh Tranh