Discovering Japanese culture and traditions at the Cherry Blossom Festival

“You will never know the moon or stars, unless you breathe in their solar system and inspect it from many diverse vantage points as possible.”
Shannon L. Alder
The world really is an interesting place in which to discover unique history, inspiring people, and fascinating sights. Although I have my sights set on traveling the globe some day, presently, I’m diving into discovering how easy it is to find some places and events that allow a bit of exploration without the long flight and time off work that not everyone has, or the cost of travel.
Living in Central Pennsylvania is really an awesome location for experiencing diversity around every corner from the Amish in Lancaster, to the urban nightlife of Harrisburg, to the mountains and hills for hiking and biking. Being so central allows easy and short travel to Washington D.C., New York City, NY, and Philadelphia, PA, in addition to many small arty and quaint towns which each over a variety of local farm-to-table eateries, craft breweries, wineries, antique shops, and art galleries.
One of the things I’ve really wanted to do until I can travel to farther destinations, is explore different cultures. Festivals are a great way to learn about different cultures and I’m lucky because there are tons of festivals in PA.
Cherry Blossom Festival 9

On April 15th, along with more than 5,000 people, I attended the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia. The festival offers traditional and contemporary activities of Japan under the cherry blossoms in Fairmount Park. Sakura Sunday is an all-day celebration of all things Japanese, from live music, dance, and martial arts performances to fashion shows, arts and crafts, karaoke, and much more.

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival began in 1998 and initially focused on the tree planting efforts of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.  Echoing a sesquicentennial gift of 1,600 flowering trees made by Japan to Philadelphia in 1926, JASGP pledged to plant 1,000 cherry trees in Fairmount Park.  This goal was accomplished in 2007, and the mission has been expanded to plant cherry trees in community parks throughout the region. As the number of sakura (flowering Japanese cherry trees) increased, so too did Philadelphians’ interest in Japan.  The Festival expanded to include an array of activities.  What began as a single day ceremony is now a collection of more than 50 events over 4 weeks.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2

I was interested most in the live music and dancers in addition to learning how to write my name in Japanese and attempting to make origami. I really enjoy learning about the wonderful traditions of a country I know very little about, and really asked a bunch of questions as well as would like to research more in the future. Questions like wondering how different cultures developed the way they did, and why it’s so hard for some people to be open to learning more about other cultures. It also challenged my assumptions or lack of understanding about Japanese culture. I didn’t really know much about the history of the cherry blossom trees until this event. I’m so thankful to have learned some really amazing values of the growing connection between all people, and how society can work together for good to increase awareness in and understanding around culture diversity. I’ve walked away with was a greater understanding of the Japanese culture and an appreciation for its traditions.

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“What a life we live. Full of questions, adventures, stories, mistakes, good, quests, bad, miracles, lessons, people, blessings, journeys, inventions, music, animals, history, cultures, religions, prophecies, planets, stars, careers, movies, plants, hate, love, and so much more.”
Jonathan Anthony Burkett

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