Sakura Matsuri: The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival
April 29, 2017 at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
I took time out of ‘MywalkinManhattan’ to visit Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden at 990 Washington Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for the annual ‘Sakura Matsuri’, the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival that the garden hosts every year at this time to welcome in the blossoming of the cherry trees in the main part of the garden.
Needless to say, the gardens were mobbed with people. This festival has grown every year since I have been a member. When I first joined the gardens back in 2003 it was a much smaller festival but after a few articles in the New York Times, it has become quite the event.
The event features all sorts of activities such as traditional dance, music and fashion. There is even a traditional Japanese market with all sorts of products such as books, wraps of clothing, pillows and food. Chocolate sampling seemed to the most popular and those booths were practically fighting people off.
I got there so late since it is almost a two hour trip by public transportation. I arrived there by noon time and was able to cut in front of everyone through the Membership line. That saved about 45 minutes.
I was able to walk through the trees, dodging people taking pictures an picnicking on the grass. There were all sorts of concerts and fashion shows going on while I was walking around. Most of the events and workshops did not interest me but one.
The J-Music Ensemble of Brooklyn preformed in the Osborne Garden by the entrance of the garden. They were playing traditional Japanese video game music themes. This left me lost as I have not followed these video games in years and have not looked at Pokémon since I left FAO Schwarz over twenty years ago. Nothing was lost in the translation as the concert was excellent and did not feel that this really catered to kids. After just two songs, most of the little kids and their parents walked out of the concert. The most interesting part of the concert is that they had us sitting in blown up chairs of one of the characters of the cartoons.
The group like the audience was very multi-cultural as some of the members were from Japan, some from Brooklyn and others from all over the US. It seemed by the introduction, they were all living in Brooklyn now. What ever the situation, the music was wonderful and we all enjoyed the concert.
The best part of the day was just walking through the extensive gardens and the cherry trees. When walking through the row of trees closer to the Japanese Garden, the wind blew and I was walking through a sea of cherry petals. That was just amazing. I haven’t felt a high like that since I had a school of angel fish part in front of me on a reef off the coast of Bora Bora.
The rest of the afternoon I explored the rest of the gardens, walking through the Water, Rock and the Japanese gardens, looking over the plantings. I was sorry that I missed seeing Daffodil Hill when it is in full bloom and the Tulip gardens were just peaking in bloom. That was still a dazzling display of colors.
I walked out of the back part of the gardens and explored Prospect Park and the Prospect Park Zoo. Even that was mobbed with people from the garden displays spilling into the zoo. I got there in time to see the seal feeding and that is always fun. The seals seem to like an audience.
In search of something to eat, I avoided the fast food restaurants at the back of the park and explored Flatbush Avenue into Prospect-Lefferts neighborhood. This area is in the midst of a major gentrification. The last time I walked down Flatbush Avenue, I could see the changes starting and that was in February.
Four months later, I have seen about ten businesses close their doors with ‘For Rent’ signs on the windows and some of these businesses were neighborhood staples. There are two more apartment buildings opening up in the neighborhood and that will change the complexity of the area even more.
With Midwood, Kensington, Borough Park and Dittmas Park to the south of the neighborhood, the area is surrounded by middle-class enclaves that keep expanding. This area in just four months is going through a very quick transition as new people move into the area.
I avoided the ‘hipster’ restaurants that are so over-priced anyway and went back to ‘Family Pizza’ at 720 Flatbush Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor). The pizza is just amazing in this little hole in the wall pizzeria which has been family owned for years. The slices are huge and the sauce has some flavor to it. The guys are the counter are really nice too.
The rest of the afternoon I just explored the side streets and then made one last trip through the gardens. The cherry blossoms were not going to last past this weekend and I wanted to enjoy them one more time. It really is a beautiful park.