Over the next few weeks, Philadelphia will ease into spring. It’s time to throw off winter coats for good and enjoy reliably warm weather. The best part of the season is the change of landscape: flowers will bloom, trees will bud and, in Fairmount Park, nearly 700 blossoming cherry trees will provide a beautiful backdrop.
The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) plants 100 cherry trees annually as a gift to Philadelphia during the week of the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs April 4-10. Celebrating Ohanami, the traditional viewing of blossoms, is said to remind one of the ultimate paradox: the short-lived yet persisting nature of life.
As a byproduct, the celebration allows for a systematic indoctrination into Japanese culture (actually, a lot of really fun displays of Japanese culture). The JASGP has a lot of activities planned for the first day alone, including workshops on kite making, a kimono dressing demonstration, shiatsu massage and Taiko drum and dance performances by a group from Japan’s Tamagawa University.
Most of these activities are free and open to the public on April 4 at Fairmount Park.
Continuing throughout the week, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will exhibit its East Asian Art collection, local libraries will host Japanese story hours and the cream of Philadelphia’s sushi chef crop will prepare amazing edible art.
Since 1994, the Japan America Society has hosted many events dedicated to fostering relationships between Japan and America, as well as attempt to bridge the gaps between each country’s business, cultural, social, educational and political customs.
The festival continues a historical tradition established in 1926, when the Japanese government gave 2,000 cherry trees to the city of Philadelphia to celebrate our country’s Sesquicentennial anniversary.
This year’s celebration marks yet another 150-year milestone. It commemorates the treaty of Peace and Amity of 1854, which signaled the beginning of Japanese-American foreign relations.
The Society is also planning for the continued maintenance and planting of trees, including grafts from a 1,400-year-old tree from Japan, a national treasure known as the “Usuzumi.”
The group also runs a Japanese conversation club where students of English and Japanese can practice and perfect their language skills, as well as other cultural awareness events.
In Japan, the holiday is a significant one. Sakura (the word for cherry tree) blossom forecasts are incorporated within weather reports and correspond to planning flower viewing activities and other traditions in Japan.
The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival offers a wonderful opportunity to get out and welcome warm weather, as well as have fun and learn something new.
A full schedule of events is available at their Web site, www.jasgp.org/sakura. Even if you don’t go for the culture, go for the chance to picnic and play outside again!
Marilyn Peck can be reached at email@example.com