The 46th annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival (Sakura Matsuri)

On April 9, the 46th annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival (Sakura Matsuri) [] launched its three-day virtual celebration of Japanese culture. The festival opened with a clip featuring dancers performing the famous Awa Odori from Tokushima prefecture. The lively music and joyful energy of the dancers started the festival on an upbeat note and was followed by welcome messages by the Sakura Matsuri organizers, Seattle Center staff, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and Consul General INAGAKI Hisao.

【Welcome message from the Seattle Center and Sakura Matsuri staff】
【Opening greetings from Mayor Durkan and Consul General Inagaki】

Although it was not possible to enjoy the cherry trees at the festival in person this year, Sakura Matsuri was still able to share a virtual cherry blossom experience through a special augmented reality video by visual artist Tamiko Thiel. The rest of the first day’s program presented a mix of vintage and new videos featuring the history of the festival, musical performances, Japanese cultural arts presentations as well as videos introducing local community groups.

【The illusion of virtual cherry blossoms brought to life through augmented reality】

【Part One of historical highlights from Sakura Matsuri’s inception up to the present day】

【An introduction to the “Way of Tea” by
the Tankokai Seattle Association】

【Performance of “Kotobuki Jishi” by
Kokon Taiko】

The second day’s theme was “Regional Japan Expo – Soul of Artisans.” Fukushima, Wakayama, Hyogo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Okinawa prefectures were represented by their local prefectural clubs, which contributed informational and cultural programs unique to their regions. The festival organizers set up a special four-panel display in the windows of McCaw Hall that featured the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as well as panels representing the Regional Japan Expo. This display on the Seattle Center campus was a physical reminder for passersby to remind them of Sakura Matsuri and Japan during the festival weekend.

【Setting up the display in the windows
of McCaw Hall at Seattle Center】
【Regional Japan Expo Panels featuring Shizuoka, Tokyo, and Aomori】
The third day continued with a variety of cultural programs including martial arts, musical performances, story-telling, crafts, and a sushi tutorial.

【Jeff Chiba Stearns reads his newest children’s book, “Nori and his Delicious Dreams”】

【Sushi tutorial by Jean Nakayama of
Maneki Restaurant in Seattle】

【Dance performance by the Fujima Dance/Music Ensemble】

【Classical martial arts performed
by the Shintokan Dojo】

Sakura Matsuri teamed up with NHK WORLD-JAPAN, in cooperation with the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, to co-sponsor an interesting selection of documentary videos.  The topics included culinary trends, a compelling journey of an American photo journalist’s search for her Japanese grandfather, an endearing tale of an energetic grandma’s mission to make mochi for her community, and a four-part series about the world-famous animator Hayao Miyazaki.

【The Tale of Granny Mochi: Kuwata Misao】

【10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki Ep. 1-4】

【A Vanished Dream: Wartime Story of my Japanese Grandfather】

NHK WORLD-JAPAN to an already full line up of programs, the festival decided to keep all of its community videos and the NHK WORLD-JAPAN films available beyond the actual event. We encourage everyone to share the festival link with friends and with anyone who may have missed this year’s festival or who is interested in learning more about Japan.The festival organizers are optimistically hoping to present a hybrid version of Sakura Matsuri in 2022 by combining in-person and virtual programing.

Visit the 2021 virtual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival here: []