On Sunday I went to the 35th Annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom) festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. As cherry trees have held cultural significance for both the U.S. and Japan, both countries have used "Cherry Diplomacy" to promote values and maintain relations abroad. The festival on Sunday was an opportunity for Americans interested in Japanese culture to check out activities including tea ceremonies, manga drawing, origami, traditional dance, drumming, theatre, martial arts, visual arts and even stand up comedy. The event meshed well with the permanent installations of Japanese cherry trees, bonsai tree collection and Japanese-style garden and pond that have been fixtures at the Botanical Gardens for years.
What caught my eye were the large numbers of youngsters, Japanese and American who had showed up dressed like their favorite anime characters. 1 out of every 6 people I saw at the festival was "cosplaying" the likenesses of Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon, Spirited Away and more. Looking at the program, I was shocked to see that there was no costume contest and these people had dressed up on their own, Gothamist got some great photos last year.
Concessions also featured bento boxes with teriyaki and sushi rolls which you could wash down with a frosty Kirin Ichiban beer.