It’s a sign spring has arrived, plus it’s a fun-size dose of Japanese culture.
The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia’s 2018 Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival brings nine days of events, which coincides with the short-lived spectacle of flowering cherry trees, April 7-15. It involves international performances, time-honored arts and crafts from origami to sushi making, and the colorful contemporary cultures of cosplay and anime.
One new addition this year is the Sake Garden — a beer garden presented by Parks on Tap — the Cherry Blossom Festival’s take on the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom picnics. It will feature Asian fusion fare, beer and cocktails and will be at the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Lansdowne and Horticultural drives in West Fairmount Park. It will be open 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays April 7 and 14 and Sunday April 8, 5 to 9 p.m. April 9-15, as well as 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on “Sakura Sunday” April 15. For more information visit www.subarucherryblossom.org/sakegarden.
Sakura (the Japanese name for cherry blossoms) Sunday is the annual festival’s grand finale, that transforms Fairmount Park into a day-long, outdoor celebration of all things Japanese, including a kids’ stamp rally, traditional food, live music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, crafts, a “Little Akiba” anime and cosplay area, timed tickets to the Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center and other activities for all ages. For more information visit www.subarucherryblossom.org/sakurasunday.
Another notable update is “Sakura Week at Shofuso,” which takes the place of Japanese Culture Week. Held April 7-13 at the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden — which enters its 60th anniversary this year — Sakura Week invites all ages to participate in different events each day, such as tea tasting, kabuki dance lessons, kimono dressing, shogi and other Japanese games, a manga (Japanese comics) pin night, a behind-the-scenes garden tour, taiko drums and more. All events are free with admission to Shofuso.
Also new in the mix are workshops on “Suminagashi Paper Marbling” at 2 and 3:30 p.m. April 8 at the Rikumo Concept Store at 1216 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Suminagashi is achieved by floating ink on water. You can learn a Japanese technique to transform a simple piece of white paper into a vibrant and colorful work of art to take home. Cost is $15 and includes all materials. No experience is required. RSVP at www.rikumo.com.
The Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia, also gets involved, with cherry blossom events planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, April 7 and 14. Those are in honor of John and Lydia Morris establishing their collections of Japanese plants and gardens in the early 20th century at their home, which eventually became the Morris Arboretum. Call (215) 247-5777 or visit www.morrisarboretum.org.
Other highlights include: performances by the Tamagawa University Taiko Drum and Dance Troupe at Taiko April 9 at Ursinus College, April 10 at Haverford College, April 11 at West Chester University and April 16 at Swarthmore College; two sushi competitions; a free screening of the Japanese film “Tenshin” April 11 at the University of Pennsylvania; a multi-course kaiseki dinner at Margaret Kuo’s Wayne on April 13; a Cherry Blossom 10K/5K April 14 in Fairmount Park and more. See full details at www.subarucherryblossom.org/events or call (267) 348-0250. Also, follow @phillysakura on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.