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Events

Japanese Friendship Garden celebrates Cherry Blossom Week

Dominic Nepomuceno - CBF - March 5 2016 (Permission from Photographer) (84).jpg
Visitors relax under the cherry trees at Balboa Park.
(Courtesy photo by Dominic Nepomuceno)

Annual event features special programming during the weekdays and a full weekend of activities and entertainment

This event has been canceled. Since 2005, the Japanese Friendship Garden has opened its gates to thousands of visitors in celebration of hanami — a traditional Japanese custom where family and friends gather under the cherry trees to view the beauty of sakura — cherry blossoms — in Balboa Park.

Formerly known as Cherry Blossom Festival, this year marks the Garden’s second year hosting the event as Cherry Blossom Week.

“It was changed ... last year as we wanted the celebration of the cherry blossoms to be more accessible and to give visitors the idea that the cherry blossoms are in bloom for more than just one weekend,” said Jon Osio, the Friendship Garden’s event and marketing coordinator. “Celebrating the spring season doesn’t need a “dedicated” time frame to experience its beauty.”

Laura Yamaguchi strikes her taiko during a performance at the Bon Odori, or Gathering of Joy, at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego in Grant Hill Saturday.
San Diego Taiko’s repertoire delivers traditional and modern styles of Taiko while infusing the spirit of their musical influences.
(John Gastaldo)
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Visitors will experience special daily programming ranging from one-day performances to interactive workshops Monday through March 20 in the Inamori Pavilion. A full weekend of activities are slated for March 21-22 that includes a children’s arts and crafts corner in the lower garden; an adults-only craft beer and sake garden; a tea and dessert garden with brews and blends from Café Moto; live performances, including taiko drumming, bon dancing; and more than 40 different local and visiting food and merchant vendors.

Last year, more than 21,000 festival-goers walked the 12-acre oasis, an increase of 40 percent from last year.

Cherry Blossom Festival
Shiho Brenner and her daughter Midori Brenner wear traditional kimonos at the 10th annual Cherry Blossom Festival at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“What makes this event special is that it represents the unique immersion of two different cultures " he said. “It amazes me to see Japanese practices demonstrated by those that are native and non-native to Japan, to notice the influence of Japanese culture to some people’s craft, as well as the influence of American culture for others, and to experience the interaction of the diversity found during Cherry Blossom Week.

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“I hope visitors are able to see that the Japanese Friendship Garden isn’t just a “garden” and more of San Diego’s central hub for information and the introduction to different aspects of Japanese culture.”

Highlights

Kamishibai: Pronounced ka-mee-shee-bye, this centuries-old Japanese form of street theater and storytelling combines the use of hand-drawn visuals with the engaging narration of a live presenter. It was popular during the Depression of the 1930s and the post-war period in Japan until the arrival of television during the 20th century. This magical art of storytelling has seen a resurgence in schools and libraries over the past several years. 10 a.m. to noon Monday near the upper garden koi pond.

San Diego Kendo Bu - Image from Organization.jpeg
San Diego Kendo Bu
(Courtesy photo)

San Diego Kendo Bu: Founded in 1972, one of the oldest kendo dojos in Southern California will demonstrate the traditional Japanese martial art of swordsmanship in two performances, “Let’s Kendo: The Art of Japanese Fencing” and “Do You Want to be a Samurai?” 5 p.m. Friday; 4 to 4:20 p.m. Saturday;1 to 1:20 p.m. Sunday in the south half of the Inamori Pavilion.

Sumo folk songs: Although sumo wrestling and singing are an uncommon match, jinku, a form of folk singing, is a common occurrence on sumo provincial (off-season) tours and retirement ceremonies. Six wrestlers wearing kesho mawashi (elaborate apron-like belts) take turns on the microphone in the center of the ring while the others clap and chant in unison. The songs they perform include verses relevant to the region that they are passing through, or have verses relevant to the retiring rikishi (sumo wrestler). Ryogoku Sumo Jinku Kai from Japan, Mr. Akira Uchida and five members, will be at this year’s festivities. 2 to 2:20 p.m. Saturday in the Inamori Pavilion.

G-Moto Press Pic.jpg
G-Moto
(Photo courtesy of Japanese Friendship Garden)

Bamboo fluteboxer: G-Moto merges the techniques of blowing air into the shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute) as he beatboxes at the same time to cover songs from anime and video games, along with original music. He has performed at various anime conventions such as Anime Expo in Los Angeles and at various cultural festivals, including last year’s Cherry Blossom Week and San Diego Lunar New Year Tet Festival. 12:30 to 12:50 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 to 11:50 am Sunday in the Inamori Pavilion.

DID YOU KNOW

The cherry trees at the Japanese Friendship Garden are grafted to other trees — usually a pear tree — so they can survive San Diego’s tropical weather.

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Cherry Blossom Week

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through March 22

Where: Japanese Friendship Garden, 2215 Pan American Road E., Balboa Park

Cost: $14 online presale; $12 general admission; $10 seniors, military and students with proper ID

Phone: (619) 232-2721

Online: niwa.org/cbw20

Updates:
8:05 AM, Mar. 13, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect the cancellation of the event Cherry Blossom Week taking place March 16 through March 22 at the Japanese Friendship Garden. The Garden will remain open during those dates for general public hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with last admission at 6 p.m.

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