Flip over a 100-yen coin in Japan, and cherry blossoms bloom on the back. The pinkish hues of the beloved flowers may not show through the metal, but their placement demonstrates the importance to Japanese culture. The meaning follows Buddhist philosophy: Life is beautiful but short, just like the annual spring bloom of the cherry trees.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates this heritage, known as Hanami in Japan, with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Now in its 33rd year, the two-day event remains the largest of its kind in a public garden in the United States.
As always, the main attraction is the 200 cherry trees lining the paths in the broad Cherry Esplanade. But music, dance and fashion also punctuate the celebration, taking over the esplanade’s main stage. Taiko drumming, Nihon Buyo classical dance and J-pop music by Hitomi Himekawa and the Rainbow Bubble Girls share the spotlight with the traditional kimono fashion show and “Kill Bill”-style Japanese sword fighting.
The festival’s annual cosplay fashion show is another highlight, with extravagant costumes based on anime movies and television series, manga and video games.
The director of communications at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Elizabeth Reina-Longoria, hopes this year’s festival breaks the 2011 record of 70,000 visitors — but she emphasizes that quieter, more contemplative experiences are available, especially in the days and weeks following the festival.
“The philosophy behind Hanami views the cherry blossom season as symbolic of the larger cycle of life,” she adds, “so visitors should consider returning after the festival to watch as the cherry petals fall to the ground.”
If you go
Cherry Blossom Festival
Brooklyn Botanic Garden,
990 Washington Ave.
Free to BBG members and children under 12;
$25 adults; $20 students and seniors