Home Event 44th Annual Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates coming of Olympics

44th Annual Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates coming of Olympics

Kirie Art by Aki Sogabe

by Bruce Rutledge, The North American Post

The 44th Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival will be held this weekend at Seattle Center. The free annual festival draws large crowds for its varied programming. Every year, there are innovative surprises that present Japanese culture in unexpected and entertaining ways. This year is no different. As the country prepares for next year’s Summer Olympics, the festival has decided to get Seattle in an Olympic mood with events like a table tennis tournament using only rice servers as paddles and the Hashilympics, which tests competitors’ chopsticks (hashi) skills.

The festival began back in 1976 as a response to the gift to Seattle of 1,000 cherry trees by the Japanese government when the US celebrated its bicentennial.

This year’s festival will be held Friday, April 26, through Sunday, April 28, from 10am to 6pm. The family-friendly event offers something for everyone, from a kids’ corner with traditional Japanese toys and games to a wealth of classes and panels on subjects such as how to use an abacus, cooking demos, tea ceremonies, and other cultural panels. There are films, music, martial arts demonstrations, board games, dance performances, and plenty of Japanese snacks and treats for sale.

The festival is an all-volunteer operation of 800 to 1,000 people run by Tazue and Yutaka Sasaki, who have been involved with the festival since 1979. Events are free and open to everyone. The Sasakis say inclusivity is what this festival is all about.

Featured Exhibitor

HASHILYMPIC- Chopstick Game

By International Institute of Hashi

Hashilympic is the name of hashi games that is a neologism created by combining the word “hashi (chopstick)” and “Olympic.” These chopstick games can be played by men and women of all ages. The International Institute of Hashi gives an award to the top winners and records the official results.
Based in Saitama, Japan, the International Institute of Hashi introduces Japanese culture by giving seminars, presentations, demonstrations and etiquette training involving chopsticks. In 2017, it visited three high schools in the Seattle area, gave presentations in classrooms and introduced a unique way of learning how to use chopsticks through games. This year, it revisits Seattle for Cherry Blossom Festival to share Japanese chopstick culture with Seattleites.


“One Big Hapa Family / What Are You Anyways?” – by Jeff Chiba Stearns
©︎2010 Meditating Bunny Studio Inc

After a realization at a family reunion, half Japanese-Canadian filmmaker, Jeff Chiba Stearns, embarks on a journey of self-discovery to find out why everyone in his Japanese-Canadian family married interracially after his grandparents’ generation. This feature live action and animated documentary explores why almost 100% of all Japanese-Canadians are marrying interracially, the highest out of any other ethnicity in Canada, and how their mixed children perceive their unique multiracial identities.

“Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice” – by Holly Yasui

The film tells the story of Minoru (Min) Yasui, son of Japanese immigrant parents, born in 1916 and raised in the farming community of Hood River, Oregon. He was the first Japanese American attorney in Oregon, and during WWII, he initiated the first legal test challenging the forced removal from the West Coast and subsequent incarceration of Japanese American Citizens. Barbara Yasui, niece of Min Yasui, will join the screening for  following Q&A session.

“Thermae Romae” – by Hideki Takeuchi

Lucius, a Roman architect, is transported through time to modern-day Japan, where he learns about Japanese bathhouses and uses this to his gain back home. This film is provided through the courtesy of Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle.

Helping Japanese culture blossom in Seattle
Yutaka & Tazue Sasaki

Yutaka and Tazue Sasaki have been dedicating themselves to helping Japanese culture flourish in the Pacific Northwest for decades. The couple has been behind the long-running Cherry Blossom & Japanese Culture Festival, held this weekend at the Fisher Pavilion next to the Space Needle. …Read more