Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 33th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Lia Chang

Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Lia Chang

Brooklyn, NY–Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG) cherry blossom festival, Sakura Matsuri— returns for its 33rd year on April 26 and 27, 2014. Taking place during Hanami, the Japanese tradition of enjoying each moment of cherry blossom season, Sakura Matsuri festivities extend beyond BBG’s spring blooms with over 60 energetic and dynamic performances, demonstrations, and exhibits, many of which have been commissioned to showcase the best of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. The festival’s distinctive entertainment and community spirit attracts one of the largest, most colorful audiences for a cultural event in the city.

Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Lia Chang

Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Lia Chang

Sakura Matsuri 2014 features a focus on Japanese fashion, with runway shows of the BBG Parasol Society and cosplay enthusiasts and presentations of traditional kimono wear. BBG’s Cosplay Fashion Show—the only outdoor cosplay fashion show in the country—presents more than 20 of the city’s most extravagant and talented cosplayers to a crowd of thousands. 

Many performers travel from Japan annually to participate in BBG’s Sakura Matsuri, including Ryukyu Chimdon Band, a bubbly Okinawan pop band; the Home Island Project of Shikoku, presenting a festive Awa Odori parade; and nonagenarian tea ceremony master Soumi Shimizu. Other festival artists hail from the five boroughs, including Soh Daiko, the East Coast’s premier taiko drum ensemble; composer Hitomi Himekawa and effervescent J-pop group the Rainbow Bubble Girls; andYoshi Amao, longtime Sakura Matsuri master of ceremonies, martial artist, and samurai sword expert. Additional programming includes samurai sword demonstrations, traditional Japanese dance, demos in Japanese arts such as ikebana flower arranging, hands-on workshops in manga, origami, and other activities for children and families. 

Sakura Matsuri favorites returning in 2014 include the following:

  • Taiko drumming by Soh Daiko, Taiko Masala, Cobu, and NY Taiko Aiko Kai Kids’ Team
  • Samurai Sword Soul’s new action-packed martial arts drama
  • Cosplay fashion show returning for its fifth exciting year
  • Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, presenting nihon buyo classical dance
  • The Japanese Folk Dance Institute of NY’s beloved hanagasa odori (flower hat dance) procession
  • Traditional tea ceremonies with Urasenke Chanoyu Center, and Japanese masters Soumi Shimizu and Sokyo Shimizu
  • Ikebana flower arranging with expert Fumiko Allinder
  • Vintage kimonos for sale from YokoDana Kimono
  • Talk by BBG’s bonsai curator, Julian Velasco, with tour of the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum
  • Tour of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden led by BBG Garden Guides

BBG’s Osborne Garden will feature manga and other contemporary Japanese culture, including the following:

  • BBG’s Parasol Society Fashion Show, featuring Tokyo goth girls and guys, Victorian maidens, and sweet shepherdesses
  • Drawing workshops, demonstrations, and talks with manga comic master Misako Rocks and ukiyo-e illustrator and video game creator Jed Henry
  • The J-Lounge manga journal, where festival visitors can sketch their favorite Sakura Matsuri sightings
  • Illusions from magician Rich Kameda, performing classic tricks with a Japanese twist
  • The Awa Odori Parade, a festive procession by Home Island Project of Shikoku, Japan
  • Composer Hitomi Himekawa and effervescent J-pop group the Rainbow Bubble Girls
  • IchiP Dance Party, Brooklyn’s own anime dance trio

Kids’ activities include the following:

  • Hands-on workshops and games, including manga-inspired photo-op boards, origami, taiko drumming, rice shaker making, and manga drawing
  • children’s Suzuki recital and kids’ taiko performance to introduce the next generation of Japanese music masters

The full event schedule is available at The cherry display is tracked on BBG’s web-based CherryWatch feature, which maps the main part of the collection and provides a daily blooming status for each tree, as well as detailed information about each cultivar. This year, the Garden encourages visitors to share their own cherry blossom images—amateur or professional—on social media, including TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, using the hashtag #bbgcherries. Photographers can also post images in BBG’s visitor photo pool on Flickr

Admission to Sakura Matsuri is $25 for adults and $20 for students (12 to 17) and seniors (65 and over). BBG members and children under 12 years of age enter for free. Admission fees will be charged all weekend during Sakura Matsuri. Events are free with Garden admission and will be held rain or shine. 

Advance tickets can be purchased online. Brooklyn Botanic Garden members and ticket holders skip the lines. Visit to become a BBG member. 

Lead sponsorship for Sakura Matsuri 2014 is provided by National Grid.

Other Garden Stories:
Mar. 1- Apr. 21: The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary at The New York Botanical Garden
Hanami, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Cherry Blossom Season, Begins
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Celebrates Hanami, the Cherry Blossom Season, Sunday, April 1–Sunday, April 29, 2012
Photos: Fall Foliage at Devil’s Lake State Park
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 30th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival: April 30 and May 1, 2011
Photos: Chinese New Year Festival at The Huntington in San Marino
Lunch at The Modern, A Stroll Through The Conservatory Garden in Central Park
Cherry Blossoms, Magnolias, Tulips and Narcissus at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Spring in New York is a Veritable Color Riot
Photos: Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Late Night with Holy Land’s Jojo Gonzalez
Tony Award Winning Playwright David Henry Hwang Receives $275,000 Doris Duke Artist Award
Kerry Butler, Edward James Hyland, Matt Walton, Megan Sikora and More in Previews of Off-Broadway Production of Under My Skin at The Little Shubert Theatre
Apr. 22 – May 18: Working Theater Presents The off-Broadway Premiere of James McManus’ CHERRY SMOKE at Urban Stages
André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Among 4 Elliot Norton Award Nominations for Huntington’s World Premiere of The Jungle Book, a co-production with The Goodman
Photos: AALDEF Honors Mari Matsuda, Aasif Mandvi, and John Chou in 2014 at 40th Anniversary Celebration
Apr. 17-May 18: Tonya Pinkins and Roscoe Orman Lead the Cast of New Federal Theatre’s Off-Broadway Production of The Fabulous Miss Marie
Apr. 18-20: Pacific Arts Movement and Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company present the San Diego premiere of 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors
Apr. 23-27: Joel de la Fuente Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at PlayMaker’s Repertory Company
Jun. 22 – July 27: Richard Thomas and Kristen Connolly Set for Old Globe Debut in OTHELLO
Photos: Backstage and Opening Night of Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Presents “LADY” Featuring Lia Chang, Monica Garrido, Carolyn Holmes, Noel Simon’ Wippler, Linda Hudson, Adi Meyerson and Kathleen Doran
Photos: Harriet Harris, John Tartaglia, Christine Toy Johnson, Alan Muraoka, James Saito and More celebrate Ann Harada’s Debut at Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series
Photos: Steve Rosen, David Rossmer, Hannah Elless, Vadim Feichtner, Cathryn Salamone, Ken Triwush and Kate Wetherhead Celebrate The Other Josh Cohen Opening Night
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards 
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72 
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia recently made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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