The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival at the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Springtime in Washington DC is a beautiful time of year.  One of the most beautiful sights are the cherry trees in full bloom.  Spring is the time of year that people from all over the world come to the city to view these spectacular trees.   Spring in Washington DC means it is time for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is being held March 28th through April 12th in 2009.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC has several beguiling and breathtaking events, but none so electrifying and fun-filled as the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival! This festival has everything, live performances, Japanese food and products, martial arts exhibitions, Japanese cultural exhibits, sake tasting and two (not just one!) Kirin Ichiban Beer Gardens. (Note: Since I go with my children, I have never actually gone to the sake tasting or beer gardens...however, everyone in those areas seem to be having a very good time!)

I realize that many people will tell you the most galvanizing part of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the stupendous fireworks show over the water. Several will say it is the sensational parade that precedes the street festival. Dozens will tell you it is the cherry blossoms...just the cherry blossoms that make this so enthralling. I am here to tell you the truth. The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is the place to be to have a stimulating and thrilling day!

You May See This

Floats
Floats
Princesses
Princesses
Amazing Feats
Amazing Feats
Giant Balloons
Giant Balloons
Dancing
Dancing

The Parade

Don't let my comments above fool you! The National Cherry Blossom Parade is a colorful event.  The giant balloons, marching bands, floats and performers are sure to entice everyone in your group, large and small.  The parade route runs along Constitution Ave from 7th St to 17th St NW.  This year's parade will be held on April 4th, 2009 beginning at 10am.

Alex Trabek, Jeopardy! host will attend as the Grand Marshall.  Other big names include Miss America 2009, Katie Stam, Joey Page (watch for swooning teenage girls!), Kimberly Locke from American Idol and Grammy award winning Thelma Houston.  Celebrities from all over aspire to be part of this parade!

Marching bands will come from as far away as Nevada.  Floats will include the ever popular Cherry Blossom Princesses.  Performers from America and Japan will entertain and astound you!  There will be singing, dancing and martial arts!  A giant Kermit the Frog will hoover overhead sauntering along with Hello Kitty. 

The parade is free and open to the public.  Just line up on Constitution Ave and watch the wonders parade past you.  If you dislike standing for long periods of time, or just want to ensure a good spot, think about purchasing a seat on the grandstand.  The grandstand is located between 15th St and 17th St and will guarantee you a stupendous view of the parade.  Grandstand ticket stubs will also allow you free entry to Madame  Tussaud's Wax Museum a short walk away.

The Parade

The Main Event

Immediately following the parade is the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. This is scheduled to run from 11am to 6pm on April 4, 2009. There is so much to see and do in this festival you will wish it was for a week instead of a few hours! The festival is interactive allowing adults and children to try out many of the crafts, learn many of the dances and sing and play with the performers.

The festival is 6 blocks of Japanese packed fun! It runs along Pennsylvania Avenue from 10th Street to 14th Street and down 12th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue. My family likes to take the Metro to Metro Center and walk the 2 blocks through the cherry blossoms to get to the festival. Many people will exit the Metro at the Federal Triangle which brings you right to the center of the festivities.

We Love the Performances!

The Food

We go from Metro Center to 12th Street and Constitution Avenue to begin our journey into the world of Japan.  The first booth is usually set up by Southwest Airlines, who sponsors the parade.  Here we stop to get our names written in Japanese characters (for free of course).  Our first souvenior in hand we continue.

Down 12th Street heading towards Pennsylvania are most of the food vendors.  We usually stop at some point in the day for Yakitori and rice.  My daughter discovered she loves sweet red bean buns.  It is fun to go and sit on the steps to one of Washington's famous buildings, eat and watch the crowd go by!

The Performers

This year you can see Ai Kawashima perform. She was part of the Japanese Pop band i-Wish, but is currently pursuing a solo career. Ai is one of the top Pop artists in Japan. Her father died when she was a small child and her mother died before she became famous, but this lovely lady does not focus on the bad in life. She focuses on love and world peace using her singing to inspire others.

Her songs are featured in many anime and video games.  Two of the most famous are Compass, the theme song for the eighth One Piece Movie and Crawl, the theme song for Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon.  She has an enchanting voice and a serene stage presence.

Ai Kawashima singing Crawl

Traditional Japanese Performances

Five stages are set up during the street festival.  All in all, 35 hours of entertainment is performed.  Now you know why I need a week to do and see everything!  You have martial arts performances on Freedom Plaza.  Traditional Japanese music performances, such as taiko and koto to name a couple.  The taiko drum performances are thrilling, a mixture of drumming and martial arts. 

There are numerous dance performances going on.  Geisha's with fans dancing to traditional Japanese music.  Japanese princesses dancing with cherry blossoms.  Happy dances, somber dances...interactive dances?  Yes, you can learn how to dance traditional Japanese dances at this festival.  Dance, Dance Revolution is another great favorite!  You can watch as ordinary people master these moves...or try some yourself!

Taiko Drum Performance

Japanese Dancers at the Cherry Blossom Festival

Anime in Real Life

Anime in Real Life

My kids favorite part is when we head over to J-Pop land. This is where you see anime history. Anime is Japanese animation (cartoons) often based on manga, Japanese comic books. You may have heard of some, Dragon Ball Z, Inuyashu or Pokemon are some of the more mainstream anime.

The Sakura Matsuri street festival draws anime lovers from all over. You will be on line with characters such as Ash from Pokemon, Kagome from Inuyasha and Goku from Dragon Ball Z. People have pink or green or blue hair. Kimonos abound! Dressing up is for the young and the young at heart. There is no age limit imposed.

Watching the people is my favorite part of this diverse and dramatic festival. I love when 2 groups of anime dressed people come together and start to act in character. Comee Comee Haaa is often heard. I had the pleasure of watching two Ashes Pokemon battle. There is nothing like having a little fantasy come to life to liven up the afternoon!

Buy Something Japanese

Don't forget to go to the Ginza Marketplace, where everything Japanese is on sale!  Want one of those weird masks to wear on the back of your head?  You will find it here.  Want a hat with ears?  Want some Pocky?  Here is the place!  There are swords, posters, manga, anime, jewelry, anything and everything...definitely something for everyone. 

Fun For the Whole Family

Young or old, boy or girl, everyone will find something they love about this festival.  People are friendly and in good spirits.  There is a spirit of unity and celebration.  People are here having fun and enjoying life.  They come out rain or shine to celebrate the Japanese way.  The only complaint you will ever hear is, "There's not enough time to do everything!!!!!"

This is What the Festival is all About

Comments 39 comments

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Fantastic photos! I heard about this, but never got to see any of it or hear about too many of the details. My favorite video was the last one. I love that song too. And the trees are so beautiful in it. Great hub k@ri!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

Yes the cherry blossum festival is one of the best things in the Spring. I grew up just 5 minutes from Washington, D.C. and we used to go just about every year. Just so beautiful to behold. Over the years though the festival would be right after a rain storm and some of the blossums had blown or were washed away. No fear though the parade and everything else is always going on! Those who live in other parts of the states should make at least one attempt in their lives to attend this event!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for this wonderful and extensive view of Cherry Blossom time in Washington. My mother-in-law got to see the cherry blossoms on a tour one time, but obviously missed the street festival. I can understand why you say that the time is not enough to see it all.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Thanks Frieda! The festival is really fun. I'm glad you liked the last one, I did too! Maybe I should move it up. It really does have some nice pictures.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Lady Guinevere, Yes it is a wonderful festival. I've been in the rain also. The trees are really magnificent to see. Thanks for reading!

Thanks Peggy! You should go if you ever get the chance. I love the street festival, but there is so much more to do! I only cover one day...the festival goes on for 2 weeks.


Netters profile image

Netters 7 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

I didn't know there was a big festival held there. Thank you for all the great information. I've seen the trees in person, they are beautiful!


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Thanks Netters! You need to come see it!! I think you would enjoy the festival!


Iphigenia 7 years ago

Beautiful Hub about an event that I had never heard of - thanks I reall enjoyed the read and the videos.


maanju profile image

maanju 7 years ago from India

A nice article. it really amazed me.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Iphigenia, Thanks, if you ever get the chance to come to DC, come when the cherrys bloom. Congrats on making HubNuggets! Great hub!!

maanju, Thank you. The festival is so much fun!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

You make me want to be there! I've only been once in Washington and it was incredibly hot (August I believe). If I ever go there again I'll make a point of being there for the Cherry Blossom Festival, it looks fantastic!


SiddSingh profile image

SiddSingh 7 years ago

Hi K@ri,

I had heard about cherry blossoms, but I did not about the Sakura Matsuri(did I spell it right?). Thank you so much for sharing this. I am glad that I visited your hub and learnt something new!


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Princessa, August is only nice at the beach (in my opinion). The blossoms are really amazing and the weather is so much nicer in April!

SiddSingh, Thanks for reading. I never knew about Holi until I read your hub. I love learning new things!


Gail S profile image

Gail S 7 years ago

I never heard about the street festival before. Hmmmm.... I wonder what I'm doing April 4th? I would love to hang out around the food vendors :)


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Gail, What are you doing on the 4th? Want to come?


Mr Nice profile image

Mr Nice 7 years ago from North America

Hi K@ri!

This summer when I was in Tokyo. I saw in Akihabara area where girls & boys cosplay on a Sundays. I saw maid cosplay group & Japanese super hero group, a Haruhi Suzumiya cosplay, & several other cosplays. It was very different & unique. Actually, in Tokyo, all you see is Teenagers & young people everywhere in flocks.

If you ever visit Tokyo never visit Shibuya 109 on a day they have a sale because once you get in you can't get out, it is sooooo crowded.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Hey Mr. Nice! Thanks for stopping by! There are cosplay groups here in the Washington area also. At the Cherry Blossom Festival, it's not just the cosplayers who dress up...it's hilarious!

My children and I want to see Tokyo some day. I'll remember about Shibuya 109! How long did you get stuck?


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

I've never had the opportunity to be in DC while the cherry trees were in bloom. A presidential inauguration, an IEEE convention and an Up Close program, but no cherry blossoms.

This sounds like loads of fun!! Maybe next year......


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Laughing Mom, Those are all close runner-ups, but nothing beats the cherry blossoms! It is a ton of fun, and well worth the trip. :)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

last year we went to see the cherry blossoms - an incredibly beautifu sight, now i want to see the rest of the festival, thanks for sharing, looks great


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Delores, The festival is planned to be during the peak bloom time. We go see the blossoms and enjoy the festival the same day. Thanks for reading!


Mr Nice profile image

Mr Nice 7 years ago from North America

Hi K@ri!

Shibuya 109 is a mall, crowded on a day of sale & all you see is people comming but but seems like nobody leaving.

Last night I published a hub about my visit to Tokyo. Please visit the link & have a look.

http://hubpages.com/travel/Take-A-Virtual-Tour-Of-...


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Hey Mr. Nice! I'm going to have a look now. Thanks for the heads up.


WeddingConsultant profile image

WeddingConsultant 7 years ago from DC Metro Area

Thanks for sharing this fantastic hub. The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful, aren't they?


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Great hub k@ri. nice pictures and videos too. I'm envious and let's hear it for the Nation that gave us those cherry trees. wonderful

Ann Murray is great


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

WeddingConsultant, Thanks for visiting. Spring is beautiful in the DC area, and the cherry blossoms are the reason why!

Hi CC! It's a great time, I just posted a new hub with my pictures from this year's festival. It was a great time!


GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

The choccobos made me cry...oh, poor Areith...I shall avenge you, and kill Sepheroth! Wait..wrong spellings. And context. Dang it...hey, look at those pretty cherry blossoms. =)


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

GM, Thanks for stopping by! I really enjoyed that game, and the cherry trees. :D


sheenarobins profile image

sheenarobins 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

You deserve the email. It's beautifully written, packed with information and it's from your own experience. Congratulations again!


bgamall profile image

bgamall 7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Nice pics. Their are some beautiful places in the eastern United States. I like the west because there are more spectacular sites.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Awww shucks sheena, you're making me blush! Thanks for the kindness :D

bgamall, Glad you liked the pics! The eastern US is pretty, but like you say, the west is spectacular! Thanks for stopping by!


bgamall profile image

bgamall 7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

If I could learn how to spell "there" I would be more able to communicate! Enjoyed the pics again today.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

bgamall, Thanks for coming back and enjoying the pictures again! I think you communicate very well :D


Kash 7 years ago

WOW Washington really put on a show, we just got from Kyoto and it was beautiful.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

Kash, It is a fun day! I'd love to here about Kyoto!


jcwin228 profile image

jcwin228 7 years ago from Yonago, Japan

beautiful blossoms, beautiful festival, beautiful hub. Just as beautiful as it is here in Japan.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

jcwin, It's my favorite time of the year in DC. :D


sheristeele profile image

sheristeele 7 years ago from Siler City, NC

Really neat. I did not know about this festival. Two cultures mixed into one. How awesome. Would love to attend, I bet it is beautiful.


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California Author

sheri, I'm glad you liked it. You should visit some spring, I bet you and your family would enjoy it! It is great fun. :D

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    I only include this because I like the song

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