Before moving from New York City to Charleston, it was my hope to do some of the things I had never done before in New York. Attending the Cherry Blossom Festival, in Japanese “Sakura Matsuri“, at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, was an occasion where I got to fulfill that wish.
From the first moment we entered the grounds of the garden, we were surrounded by natural beauty as well as signs of the festival (man, I wish they had an inflatable chair large enough for me!).
On our way from the entrance to the main area of the festival, the Cherry Esplanade, we passed by their collection of Lilac trees. I have always loved lilac trees, going back to the 1980s when I lived in a Victorian house that had a large such tree in the front yard. But I have never seen lilac flowers in so many colors before!
And then we arrived at the Cherry Esplanade, where a huge number of people had already gathered, to enjoy the canopy of the cherry trees in bloom.
Not far from the Cherry Esplanade is the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. We wandered over there to see it, but we did not try to enter the house on the edge of the pond – it was crammed full of people already!
Back at the Cherry Esplanade, they had set up a stage on the south end, with a full slate of acts throughout the day. We were thrilled to see and hear the Daiko drumming – the drummers seem to have so much fun as they drum in a team effort. And man, they have lots of energy – they keep it going for several minutes at a time.
Just off that square in another direction is the garden’s collection of rose bushes.
At the north end of the square was the food tent. Therese found us a good spot near a tree (the day threatened rain, although as I recall it never did actually rain), while I went and waited in line to buy us lunch. The menu included some very intriguing Japanese options; however, by the time I got in line to order, most of them were already sold out! Poor planning if you ask me – I mean, this was only midday, with lots more hours of the festival to go. Oh well. I ordered Chicken Teriyaki for Therese, and got a chicken sausage and peppers on a roll for myself.
After listening to some more daiko acts and eating our lunch, we headed over to the indoor areas of the garden to see the things on display there. We started with the Steinhardt Conservatory. The Warm Intemperate Pavilion had many fascinating plants on display, as well as a huge collection of wooden root systems hanging from the ceiling that was very fun. There was a hot house room to one side, but we were feeling plenty clammy already, so we decided instead to get in line for the Bonsai Museum to the other side.
This is probably one of the largest collections of Bonsai trees anywhere. Certainly, it is the largest one in New York City. And while I usually associate bonsai trees with evergreens – and there are plenty of examples of those in this collection – there were also bonsai Camelias and Wisteria and Rhododendrons, and even a Japanese Maple bonsai. Very cool.
When I think of typical Japanese art forms, the one that probably fascinates me the most is the art of folding paper, Origami. In the garden’s rotunda, an artist from Taro’s Origami Studio was creating large form origami – the piece of paper he was working on was probably about 20 feet long – while on tables set around the room were examples of smaller pieces finished earlier. The animals were my favorite, especially the dragons and the eagle.
We finished our afternoon at the Sakura Matsuri by attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony given in the auditorium. We observed as several members of the audience were brought up on stage to participate in the ceremony. The ceremony included elements that we experienced throughout the day in everything we experienced – simplicity, balance and the harmony of being one with nature. Thus it was the perfect way to end our day at the cherry blossom festival and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.