The day after I went to Castle Point, my mom and I went to Sakura Matsuri at the Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn, New York.
Sakura Matsuri is exactly what it translates to: a festival celebrating cherry blossom trees. There are also many events related to Japanese culture, including performances, arts and crafts, and other activities. You can see the schedule from this year’s festival here if you are interested. I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of anime or otaku related things, but I thought it would be a great early graduation present since I am so interested in Japanese culture.
I expected it to be a nice, quiet afternoon, but the day didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. By themselves, all of the activities and events would have been extremely enjoyable- traditional kabuki dancing, a gallery of bonsai trees, a ton of interesting other things… The sakura trees were gorgeous, as long with the traditional Japanese garden and other plants.
The problem was that I wasn’t really able to fully enjoy any of this. Why? Because it was incredibly crowded. And I don’t mean your average, crowded Sunday afternoon. It was insane. It was almost as if every family in Brooklyn decided to attend the festival.
Even if you aren’t weary of crowds or aren’t claustrophobic, the amount of people there would make most anyone annoyed, especially if you wanted to attend the events. There were so many people that the lines for everything were ridiculously long, literally adding up to one or two hour waits. The lines at the bathrooms were crazy too, which were mostly porta potties… Ewww.
The stage performances were difficult to enjoy as well. Throngs of people surrounded the stages, making it hard to see the dancers or actors. It was extra chaotic at the main, open stage. Some people were standing, some were sitting… either way, you needed to squish yourself into the crowd to find a place to watch. But while you were watching, other people tried to squirm past you to find their own place. On top of this, many people talked through the performance, which wasn’t just rude, it was irritating as well. This was the most upsetting part to me personally because the dances were beautiful. However, I was only able to watch for a few minutes before I became fed up and needed to leave because I felt anxious.
Overall, the whole thing felt very disjointed. When I go to an anime convention, I usually don’t get nervous when it gets crowded because there is usually a collective sense of community. Everyone who is there because they have a love of anime or otaku culture. I don’t feel out of place.
This festival, on the other hand, was a giant cluster. There wasn’t a sense of togetherness- only chaos. I felt like I was being pushed around by the crowd, rather than being a part of it. Everyone was all over the place and set on accomplishing their own goals. For example, when my mom and I stopped to take a picture of something, it was considered a nuisance rather than an ordinary activity. Many people pushed past us even when they saw we were trying to take a photo.
It also didn’t help that some people tended to be rude in general. Other times, parents were not able to control their kids, which created more discord. The staff was pretty unorganized as well. (I think they should have maybe set a limit on how many people could attend- it would have made things much easier for both the guests and the workers).
On a positive note, the sakura trees were beautiful. The cherry blossom area was also extremely crowded, but I was able to look at the blossoms without having to wait on a long line or having to peek over people’s head. There were also some really amazing cosplayers, although I wasn’t able get a picture of any of them. I really give them kudos for being able to keep their costumes in check in the insane crowds.
As for the events and performances… I can’t really comment on whether they are worth attending because the crowds were so big that I couldn’t participate in them. I admit, though, what I was able to see was pretty awesome.
This is my suggestion. If you want to see gorgeous cherry blossoms, visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in April on a weekday morning or a time when there won’t be a lot of people. You will be able to sit under the trees, relax, and have a picnic. There is also a lovely traditional Japanese garden. Both are great places to do a cosplay photo shoot. I don’t know what the Botanical Gardens are like on a normal weekend, but I recommend that do not go to see the cherry blossoms or Japanese garden during Sakura Matsuri because you will not be able to fully enjoy it.
If you are interested in the festival itself, I don’t want to dissuade you from attending it because Sakura Matsuri is a good place to be exposed to Japanese culture. But be prepared for the crowd. I have social anxiety so it is possible that the big crowd affected me more than most people, but I am not exaggerating the amount of people that were there. Also, do not expect to have the same experience you would at an anime convention. There are cosplayers and other anime fans, but it is easy to lose them among the masses.
The amount of Japanese culture is wonderful. It is just up to you if you can handle all of the people.
Here are some other nice pictures from Sakura Matsuri: