Magnificent Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

By William Kustiono

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 2013 Sakura Matsuri will takes place this weekend. The weather is hot outside and the winds are blowing the cherry flowers and its petals are falling to the ground. Sakura Matsuri originated from the word “Hanami”, which literaly translates to “flower viewing”. In Japan, people like to watch sakura flowers bloom during the springtime. People gather under the sakura tree with friends, consuming food and alcohols. For New Yorkers, they can enjoy Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn Botanical Garden located at 1000 Washington Ave Brooklyn, NY 11225.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden was founded in 1910, by the first director, Dr. Charles Stuart Gager. During that time, BBG created the Japanese section, it has a 500-year-old Shogun lantern, a gift by Mr. Bunj Sakuma a controller of Taito Ward Tokyo. The yearly Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival popularized BBG and attracts hundreds or thousands of New Yorkers and foreigners from all over the surrounding areas/neighboring cities.

The Cherry Blossom Festival will be open to public on April 27th 2013. I had the chance to interview several key members of the festivals. Japanese enthusiasts should see Sakura Matsuri at BBG. There are varieties of show performed such as Traditional Japanese Folk Dances and Street Fashion.

Here is a brief glimpse of Traditional Japanese Folk Dances performed in BBG:

Mrs. Phuong Phamthihoai and Mrs. Mai Nemoto performing Hanagasa Ondo from Yamagata

Mrs. Nemoto quoted “Hanagasa Ondo is a dance performed by minors when they are building a dam. The minors perform this dance to boost their morale.” Mrs. Nemoto and Mrs. Phuong are Japanese citizen, although Phuong is a descendant from Vietnam, she spent her childhood in Japan. Both dancers have resided in New York for more than 5 years. They have been practicing the Japanese dancing for more than 3 years (6 years for Mai and 3 years for Phuong) and performed in various places such as public schools, churches, nursing homes, open air festivals such as BBG, and many places with stages (Phuong explained to me). They love doing community activities around the New York Areas.

Mrs. Mai Nemoto in Japanese Fan Dance from Ehime Prefecture

Mrs. Nemoto and Mrs. Phuong explained about the traditional dances they are going to perform this weekend. They explained about Hanagasa Ondo. It is a traditional dance from Yamagata, North Japan. Another dance is Owara from Toyama Prefecture. The meaning behind the dance is low class people dancing towards the upper class people. During the Edo period, they have to show respect towards the upper class people by not showing their faces when they are dancing. Yosakoi Naruko dance from Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku Island. And Zenidaiko dance from Shimane Prefecture.

Mrs. Phuong in Zenidaiko Dance from Shimane Prefecture

Mrs. Anna Jacobs, the Director of Public Programs at Brooklyn Botanical, coordinates the Sakura Matsuri events at BBG. She added several comments regarding the upcoming Sakura Matsuri. “There will be a street fashion and a traditional Japanese Folk Dance group present in the upcoming event. The Japanese Folk Dance group has been working along with BBG for over 32 years. Miss Ito, the leader of the group who turned 80 this year. She has been in the Traditional Dance Activities for a long time. Currently she is preserving the Japanese Traditional Dance in order to prevent from fading away in the modern era.” Usually there are varieties of events celebrated in BBG such as Tea Making Ceremony, Samurai, and Cosplay events. But this time BBG is specially reassigned for Sakura Matsuri.

Anna Jacobs with a Victorian cosplay model Merry Wu in the middle

Carlos De Santiago, a cosplayer and a Fashion Stylist from Las Vegas, provides several key insights on the upcoming street fashion. Growing up in Las Vegas and recently moved to New York pursuing Fashion interests. His latest achievement as the Event Manager of New York Mercedes Benz Fashion Show, Mr. Santiago is the leading expert of Japanese Street Fashion. He contributed his effort as a fashion specialist in this upcoming festival. There will be two kinds of street fashions presented in the festival: Victorian Style and Gothic Style. The Victorian Style based on the 1980s in Tokyo, Japan. This style also relates to Pop music. People who dress up in Victorian Style tend to listen to Japanese Pop song. On the hand, Gothic style relates to gothic, people dressed in dark colored clothes and dresses. The gothic style performers tend to listen Visual Kei, which is Japanese Gothic band.

Carlos De Santiago

There will be more performances presented in the middle of the garden. The cherry flowers will be in full bloom these weekends. Be sure to bring along your friends and families to enjoy the beautiful and gorgeous sight seeing of Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Don’t forget to take pictures beneath the Sakura trees and also along these cosplayers. Have a seat and enjoy the performances presented by the Japanese Fold Dance Institute of New York.

The “Victorian” style cosplayers posing beneath Sakura trees

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