There are few people who can travel to Japan and not be charmed by it. I can remember my first trip there with uncharacteristic precision, but like so many others, I flirted with its culture and food long before I set foot on a plane. There is something so intoxicating about how truly unique it is, so it’s no surprise that Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri is one of its busiest weekends of the year.
Sakura Matsuri, which literally translates into Cherry Blossom Festival, is an annual celebration that ushers in spring with the synchronous blooming of multiple cherry blossom trees. Cherry blossoms are deeply symbolic in Japanese culture, where hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura tree. At BBG, they commemorate this time of year with a weekend dedicated to honoring traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Its traditional roots are illustrated with activities such as taiko drumming and martial arts performances, while its more contemporary influences can be found in cosplay- and anime-themed activities.
I hope you’ll indulge me as I take you on a short picture tour — I believe it will capture the spirit of the event better than any description I could cobble together. Let’s begin with the stars of the show:
Then let’s throw in some lilacs for safe measure (we incorrectly identified these as wisterias before — thanks for the correction, Josef!):
Let’s meet some of the vendors:
And catch one of the performances:
And finally, take a gander at some of the creative costumes (you can find more great cosplay pictures in Gothamist’s coverage of the event):
Whether you decide to show up in a kimono, your best Harajuku ensemble, or simply as an unadorned fan, Sakura Matsuri allows New Yorkers to come together in their shared love for all things Japanese — so mark your calendars for the next one. Where else can you learn to draw manga characters and buy sushi pillows in one afternoon?
Tip: Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a great destination to enjoy amazing flowers and foliage, including its fantastic Japanese garden, even when the fanfare has died down. Admission is free on Tuesdays and on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon (except festival dates).
990 Washington Ave
Visit their website for seasonal hours.
Pair it with:
Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds at the Brooklyn Public Library
Around the corner from BBG, you’ll find the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza. While it undoubtedly houses many literary treasures to nourish the mind, it also houses a little food counter with delectable pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds to nourish the soul. The two sisters behind the Gowanus powerhouse learned how to make pies from their grandmother, but came up with their signature all-butter pie crust on their own and have since built it into a pie empire. Their pies have long been listed among the best in city — the Salted Caramel Apple is a Thanksgiving favorite of ours. On this last visit we were presented with a Chocolate Chess pie option, pictured above, and it had us licking the paper carton for every last crumb.
10 Grand Army Plaza
Mon 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tue 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Wed 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thu 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm