How to Hanami, A Sakura Matsuri Rendezvous

having a Hanami moment on Roosevelt Island , NYC Sakura Matsuri 2017

Do you Hanami? I love to Hanami! What is Hanami? Ok, good question! Hanami is the art of flower viewing and in this instance, cherry blossom viewing in Japan that has been done for over a thousand years.

In Japan and now all over the world the festival called Sakura Matsuri, viewing the cherry blossoms flower, Japanese people gather under the trees, picnicking and enjoying the fragility of nature for the short time that the blossoms hang from the trees. It’s a parallel to how fleeting life is and to take the time to cherish it. It is celebrated by wearing traditional Japanese clothing, listening to music, dancing, sharing food and time with family members in all the open spaces around the country. And it has grown to other countries, especially the U.S., with the gift of cherry trees that Japan has given in the last century.

Where to Hanami in New York City

Well, in a city where too much is never enough, we have multiple cherry blossom festivals. The biggest in NYC is at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Sakura Matsuri, sells out every year. It is the most polished and event-filled festival to choose from. They have visitors in cosplay, swordplay re-enactments, folk dancing and traditional foods. It is a huge get-together.

Another large space that has a Sakura Matsuri festival is Randall’s Island, a smaller event that has face-painting, kite-flying, food stalls, and crafts, it’s very family oriented. The one that I visited this year was the Sakura Matsuri festival on Roosevelt Island, it is also on the smaller side. I had never heard about the festival on the island and never had a better reason to go than this one. I knew the island wouldn’t be as crowded as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and low-key was what I wanted to enjoy the warm afternoon.Roosevelt Island, NYC

Roosevelt Island’s Cherry Blossom Festival

I got there a little while after the festival actually started so I missed the tea ceremony and the island was already packed with people.

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There goes my idea of a low-key festival, or so I thought. The walk from the train station to the festival wasn’t very long, but the fact that the escalators weren’t working in the train station made the walk and climb a thigh workout. There were festivities indoors, but I stayed in Four Freedoms Park to view the different events that were scheduled for outdoor space. And because of that, I got some video of the local school children dancing, a traditional dance involving the crowd, and a band performing in Japanese on my periscope videos, posted below.

Excuse the shaky video, it got terribly windy by the river. It was a lovely afternoon, that I gladly missed yoga class for and I’m not mad about it. I would definitely visit the island’s festival again to have a more intimate feeling towards the festival. Have you ever been to a Cherry Blossom Festival in your town? Or even better, have you been to Japan during Hanami?? If you have, I’m so jealous I could scream!! Ahem!! Please tell me about it in the comments, I would love to know and keep the conversation going.How to Hanami A Sakura Matsuri Rendezvous

Until our next rendezvous…




How to Hanami A Sakura Matsuri Rendezvous

28 thoughts on “How to Hanami, A Sakura Matsuri Rendezvous

  1. It’s interesting that New York would be a good place to observe cherry blossoms. It shows how huge the city really is, that such a custom can migrate. Great post!

    1. Yes, I believe that the Japan gave them as gifts of friendship after WWII, to major cities at the time. There have been large gifts of cherry trees all over the country. But, I believe Washington DC is still the biggest.

  2. I’ve never been to a Cherry Blossom Festival before and didn’t realize that one was as close as NYC. Thanks for sharing, I can look forward to next year.

  3. I take part in this in Toronto every year. I don’t really have a choice. I live in High Park which has the largest park in the city and every year people come from all over to see the cherry blossoms. For a small period of time my area is taken over but I love it!

    1. It wasn’t the huge one in Brooklyn but this one was very community oriented and I like that because everyone seemed to know each other. A small gathering on the island kind of took you out of the city.

  4. Hello, your posting is awesome!

    I’ve been to cherry blossom festival both in Japan and US.
    While Japanese version of cherry blossom festival basically means picnic (based on my experience,) the US one is relaxing chat time with besties.

    So, I got question after reading your posting.
    Was there any food venders that sold quick bite?
    Or was there anyone who brought small lunch to cherry blossom festival in Roosevelt Island?

    Just curious, since I didn’t see pics that someone’s eating something. It’s a little culture shock to me ?

    1. Thank you for the compliments. Yes there were vendors selling bento boxes and an American food truck close the dancing. Both had very long lines and people who were yearly visitors also brought their own food as well. There were many families that were sitting on blankets because they were there from the early morning. The Sakura Matsuri Festival at Brooklyn Botanic Garden also has many food trucks that attend. Under the Kanzan trees there is lots of room to picnic and sleep.

  5. I LOVE Hanami! It is one of the most fun times of year in japan. It’s awesome to see that NY does it so well too! <3

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