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Matsuri Japanese Festival Draws Crowd In D.C.

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Emily Erwin and Falisha McCauley

Entertainment Editor and Chief Copy Editor

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in Washington D.C. was jam-packed with thousands of attendees for the 51st Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival which opened at 11 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m.

The festival celebrates the seasonal blooming of Japanese cherry trees as is tradition in Japan for the beauty and relaxation the fragrant flowers offer. Admission to the festival is free and attendees can traverse the many available vendors to buy Asian food, sample Kirin beer and Sake, as well as purchase various merchandise including kimonos, anime T-shirts, and Japanese tea cup sets.

However, this year was different.  After the tsunami and earthquake crisis which shook Japan over a month ago, the festival staff added a five dollar admission price as means for Japan Relief. Other changes included volunteers roaming among the festival-goers with donation boxes for additional Japan Relief.

Aside from these couple alterations, over 35 performers from New York, Japan, and D.C. local performers entertained the crowd with dance troupes, traditional dance and instrumental acts, and live martial arts and samurai exhibitions. There were also game show type events, comedy and magic acts, and brief lectures to raise awareness about Japanese culture, such as cosplay.

Attendees varied from all ages, from the elderly to small children. Many teens were in cosplay, in which people dress up as characters from their favorite series. Popular cosplays of the day were from “Death Note,” “Bleach,” and “Hetalia: Axis Powers.” Cosplayers were often asked to have pictures taken with fans of the series.

In addition to the cosplayers, ambassadors from various countries were also present, including Russia and Japan. The ambassadors were dressed in traditional clothing from their countries they represented.

Sakura Matsuri is a good way for people to become introduced to Japanese culture. There are plenty of opportunities to sample Japanese cuisine, watch performances on traditional instruments, and to purchase Japanese outfits. For those who are already informed about Japanese culture, Sakura Matsuri is a fun way to spend the weekend.