This weekend is the 36th annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. At the festival, you can explore varieties of cherry blossoms and learn about traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. We attended the festival last year, but this year we decided to visit before the festival to avoid the large crowds. We were lucky as the Cherry Esplanade was in full bloom during our visit.
Cherry blossoms are the national flower of Japan. The Japanese believe that this flower represents the fragility and beauty of life. Cherry blossoms last for only one to two weeks, flying away almost as quickly as they bloom. Every cherry blossom season, tourists and natives attend festivals in Japan and around the world to enjoy these gorgeous flowers and celebrate Japanese food, music and culture.
The first cherry trees in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden were a gift from the Japanese government and planted after World War I. Today, the garden features 200 cherry trees and over 40 varieties. Cherry blossom season in Brooklyn runs from early April to mid May.
We began our visit with a leisurely stroll through the picturesque Cherry Esplanade, which is a beautiful green field bordered by two rows of cherry trees. The Esplanade was in full bloom during our visit.
We also stopped by the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden. This area typically peaks earlier in April, but we saw the post bloom cherry trees. We saw lots of colorful koi fish in the pond as well as a small turtle. Next year, we plan to visit the garden when this area is in bloom.
Most cherry blossom varieties produce light pink to white blossoms, but there are also cherry trees with dark pink, yellow or green blossoms. We also spotted a Japanese kimono during our visit.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden tracks the blooming of the cherry trees on the Cherry Watch. Before your visit you will know which flowers are pre bloom, first bloom, peak bloom and post bloom.
We also explored the garden grounds to see the other flowers in bloom.
We also snapped some silly pictures.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has one of the most lavish cherry blossom celebrations outside of Japan. If you plan to attend the Sakura Matsuri festival, you must purchase your tickets online. Tickets are usually $15, but during the festival they are $30. If you are a Brooklyn Botanic Garden member, you can skip the lines and head straight into the garden. Visitors often dress up for the Sakura Matsuri festival. Last year, we spotted kimonos, neons wigs and colorful costumes. The festival is also kid friendly with sword fighting, manga artists and live musical performance.
If you plan to visit the garden after the festival, we recommend checking the Cherry Watch to see which flowers are in full bloom. Also remember that picnics are not allowed at the garden. You can purchase food at the cafe, but if it’s warm enough we recommend a picnic before or after your visit in Prospect Park.
“…The cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short.”––Homer Cantu