Say Hello To Japan, Or May Be Not : Sakura Matsuri Festival, New York4/29/2014 12:43:00 AM
"Some Say, Life is hard. but thats just talk. In fact, its good to be alive. Its exciting."
As I begin penning this article, I am back to watching "Dreams" by Akira Kurosawa, My Introduction to Japan, A movie that made me fall in love with this country, its landscapes and culture alike. Each frame so intriguing and perfect, the foxes walking through the misty forest, the peach orchard and the rainbow. I lived Japan through his dreams and wished to visit the country and see those scenes in real one fine day. My happy tunes - the song of the procession in the village of the watermills. perhaps that explains why had such huge expectations from this festival.
I am living in New York here, these days, and exploring Japan is still in my wish list. something thats not happening until next year, if I go by my plans. As the spring arrived I was thinking about making a trip to Washington DC for National Cherry Blossom Festival but the videos of the parade turned me down a bit. I'll explain that later, but here this weekend, we had another festival, supposedly a cherry blossom festival only, but more of celebrating the culture of Japan, and I thought, perhaps It'll be a great way of getting a glimpse, though I am not much in to stage performances and picnic sort of festivals, and It turned out just that. Yes, I am throughly disappointed.
"Sakura Matsuri, the annual cherry blossom festival at Brooklyn Botanical Garden, offers over 60 events and performances that celebrate traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. The festival marks the end of Hanami, the Japanese cultural tradition of enjoying each moment of the cherry blossom season."...says one of organization's website. Its a two day long festival held yearly on a spring weekend from 10AM to 6PM, there is an after party I believe. I dint stay that long to figure out if it was there, or how was it for that matter.
Screening the line-up for both days, I felt Sunday would be a rather better idea, specially from photography point of view. I have to mention, the fact that there was a practice session on one of the weekdays, totally slipped my mind, or I would have visited just then. I'll let you know why later in the post. Anyways, Classical dances such as Nihon Buyo and traditional Minbu with Taiko Drums and Martial Art, All of it did sound pretty interesting actually. So I picked Sunday and After having terrible luck with transport yesterday, I managed to reach BBG at about 12PM, The drum performance had just began then, a friend of mine was already there, and so were the hundreds of people, say what?
Thats right. With that begins my series of disappointments, and realizations of course. When I paid ~$30 for a day pass, I was actually hoping it be a culture extravaganza or perhaps as I said, I had huge expectation not from Cherry blossom trees but from organizations, space, and the programs, instead I met crowd set out for a weekend picnic with artists nowhere to be seen.
Any cultural festival if you see it outside the country, Does it fall short on its usual charm? I am now wondering, I had attended Chinese new year parade in San Fran last year, that for once is considered as the biggest celebration outside asia or perhaps China itself. it apparently turned out a show of cars and sponsors and mayors and city officials and organizations riding in their vintage cars, waving hands at the crowds. More or less, few kid groups were real saviors that day, I remember. This festival I was hoping to have a seriously good line up with at least hundred artists and it turned out a cosplay.
You must note, this event has a usual high rating, that is self explanatory why most of the events here in US are westernized versions of any culture or festival. there is nothing wrong with people involvements and costume competitions but how about a good looking stage with some intriguing performances, some more artists and Japanese stalls, and art on display? Much to my dismay, the crowd was very overwhelming and oh there was no Japanese cuisines to taste, I think I should have headed to a restaurant for that.
Think I made my point, haven't I? Now lets look at some of the plus.
It was a good excuse to drag me to Botanical Garden, which I, otherwise wouldn't have visited. I think I' much like a simple flower I accidentally find blooming somewhere in the remote wild then carefully planted tulips, But the place is beautiful and definitely worth visiting when there is no one around.
Nihon Buyo was interesting, though the performances seemed hurried, I would have much preferred if they had 2-3 good long performances, I would now mostly go to youtube and learn a little bit about classical dances. Taiko was disappointing. Samurai sword show, entertaining, but nothing intense like what I had imagined. Let me conclude it by saying its an event for family outing and to enjoy with kids and its definitely not traveler/photographer like me, Not that I wouldn't mention I spotted people with age old rollex and a three thousand dollars worth linhof, but let me tell you on thing about New York here, no matter what is the event, you'll see hordes of photographers present.
As we had to get out of the stage, to eat some / only boxed food available ( ordinary and pricey) we dint have enough motivation to get to the stage again for what so ever was up next, instead we decided to take a round of the park. These photos that I have posted here are straight out of the camera jpegs, I just picked for a quick post here.
I believe there were couple of events / stalls organized inside the museum area, couple of games for kids and adults alike, some market area and art galleries as well. I spent few more minutes shooting the park, magnolia trees and local people in exotic costumes, a sub-culture of sort, I learned, you can read more about it here. I have to mention the attendance on sunday was lesser, because I did see some nice stuff from Saturday on the event facebook page which was missing on sunday.
Anyways, 4 hours in the riot, and we were out of the park. fortunately Coney Island, a place I had been planning to visit for months, isn't far from there and the same train that I boarded from manhattan to come here, runs all the way to the beach, we took the subway and were in Coney Island in no time and after that the evening just flew.
I can say my writer's block is kind of over, with this post, though it sort of negative, something that I wouldn't have wanted to write after a month long break, but anyways, Its good that it is over. I hope you enjoyed the photographs, will be posting more and often. for now time to get back to writing, More articles coming up in May.