Listen to drums boom as the borough starts to bloom.

The Sakura Matsuri Festival will pop up in the Cherry Grove near Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s New York State Pavilion on Saturday, April 20, at 11 a.m.

Hosted by the NYC Parks Department, the Japanese American Association of New York (JAA), and the Inagaki family, the 15th annual, two-hour celebration focuses on “Hanami” or appreciation of floral beauty. Attendance is free.

Soh Daiko, the East Coast’s oldest Taiko group (established in 1979), will kick off the fun with a Taiko percussion performance. By batting snare drums with thick sticks called “Bachi,” the drummers – clad in traditional headbands called “hachimaki” and loose-fitting pants called “tabi” — will summon good spirits while scaring away evil ones. Their pace will be fast, and their sound will be loud based on ancient agricultural rituals and music from Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. (In the past, the rhythms also encouraged warriors to defend the land, but this shouldn’t happen on Saturday.)

Next up in the program, Conductor Tanaka Motomi will direct JAA’s chorus in a rendition of “Sakura, Sakura” and other songs, followed by more music by the New York Okinawa Club with Jimpu-Kai New York. Then, Momo Suzuki will lead the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York in a colorful Hanagasa Ondo Parade before a tea ceremony that aims to foster goodwill as per a centuries-old tradition.

“Sakura Matsuri” translates from Japanese to English as “Cherry Blossoms Holiday.”

There’s a free parking lot near the Cherry Grove. Plus, JAA has chartered buses that will depart from 49 West 45th St. in Manhattan at 10 a.m. They will return to the same spot by around 3 p.m.

Editor’s note: In a similar vein, the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum is offering free admission to its garden of blossoming cherry trees until April 21. The property is at 34-41 137th St. and regular hours are from noon to 5 p.m.

Images: JAA


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