By The North American Post Staff
The 41st annual Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival will celebrate all aspects of traditional and modern Japanese culture. This year, the event will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 22, 23 and 24 at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center Pavilion and Armory.
The event theme is “Traditions Today” to recognize the long history and path of Japanese culture and what is shown in society and the community today. The festival will feature artists who have contributed over the past 40 years through a special exhibit.
The annual cultural event originated in 1976 on the bicentennial celebration in the United States when Prime Minister Takeo Miki donated 1,000 cherry trees to Seattle. Local community groups, including the Japan- America Society of the State of Washington, Japanese Community Service in Seattle and Shunju Kai (now the Japan Business Association of Seattle), presented their stone lanterns to Seward Park and featured local cultural performances.
The annual event was relocated to Seattle Center in 1978 after an event cancelation due to weather, and the current focus on Japanese culture began later as the center’s first ethnic festival and the oldest partner of the Festival program.
“Over the years, the award winning non-profit Festival remains a free, life-enriching experience,” the festival committee states. “It is dedicated to increasing the understanding and friendship between the people of Japan and the Pacific Northwest. As a public service, the Festival presents culturally educational programs, arts, technologies and the rich heritage of Japan.”
This year, since Friday is a popular field trip day for local schools, Bothell High School will open a booth for Friday to introduce happi making to visitors.
During the festival at the Seattle Center Pavilion, the Japan Foundation’s world-premier exhibit “Yakishime and Japan” will feature various unglazed ceramic art works that have been preserved and developed since the 12th century. The exhibition will begin on April 19 through May 1. During the festival weekend the exhibit will extend its hours.
In addition to dozens of local community organizations and individuals featuring foods, activities and performances in their booths and on stages, several programs will include film screenings and book events. The programs are held at Loft 3 in the Armory.
In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, short documentary series “113 Project” will be shown during the weekend. Director Wesley Julian and Producer Daniel Martin will join the screening at Armory Loft3 at 12 p.m. on Friday, 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The 33rd Washington State Japanese Speech and Skit Contest will be held at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 22 at the Armory.
Cherry blossoms have been a key component of the festival since Seattle has such strong ties with Japanese cherry trees beginning with the 3,500 trees donated by the local community in 1929. Japanese Emperor Akihito also planted a single cherry tree when he visited Seattle in 1960.
In 2010, commemorating 150 years of U.S.- Japan relations by the ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and his wife Yuriko visited Seattle and celebrated 50 years of the Seattle Japanese
Garden with the emperor’s cherry tree. In April 2011, Seattle’s cherry blossoms made a historic trip to the International Space Station.
In December 1913, the soul of the emperor’s cherry tree was transferred to a scion, which was planted next to Fisher Pavilion.
The cherry blossom festival will be sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, Seattle Center, King County 4Culture and the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Center.
More information can be found at www. cherryblossomfest.org.