By Kenny Nguyen
The Sakura Matsuri is the Cherry Blossom Festival’s Street Festival that happens every year to celebrate the cherry blossom blooming and where everybody from different programs sets up booths to help sponsor awareness. I never knew that we had a Sakura Matsuri, because whenever someone says cherry blossoms, I always automatically thought that they meant going to the Pentagon and just taking pictures. But now that I have gone to the actual Sakura Matsuri, I am invested into going again every year because my experience there was so amazing.
Upon entering the entrance at the Sakura Matsuri, I automatically went to my booth which was called Japanese Plus, where we would set up activities like quilt drawing, drawing, and other information about our program. It was slightly raining in the morning and the night before it had rained, so the booths were wet and we had a pool of water sitting on top of our tent. This made it so that we had to push the tent from the inside in order to spill the water out. The process was really fun, as it brought a little life in the morning. Once we finished pouring out the water, we were ready to start setting up the booth without concern of getting anything wet.
Around 10:30 am was when crowds of people started coming in. At first it was kind of daunting having to communicate with everyone as they passed by our booth. We had to pull people into our booth somehow, and it was either by getting their attention through communicating with them as they passed or trying to draw them in through our mascot, Puni Puni. A majority of the people that came to our booth were first drawn by our logo, Puni Puni, because it looked adorable and they wanted to know what it is, Puni Puni in Japanese means squishy. Another method we used to help draw people in was when me and my fellow classmates went into the crowd and directly asked them if they wanted to learn about our program. The whole process really challenged me out of my comfort zone since it made me communicate to strangers that I didn’t know.
The whole scenery of the Sakura Matsuri was one of a kind. For example, aside from the beautiful cherry blossoms that were still in bloom, there were different kinds of cosplayers. I had never really seen people cosplaying before, and so going to the Sakura Matsuri was the first time I’ve seen cosplayers. The experience was really entrancing as I was able to meet a variety of people and I knew a lot of the characters that people dressed up as. It made the whole experience a lot more engaging as I was eager to go out and about to visit the different booths and people.
My favorite experience at the festival would have to be the food and the people. The foods that were being presented at the booths were yakisoba, takoyaki, bobba, okonomiyaki, etc., a lot of the Japanese cuisines that I have always wanted to try. They did not disappoint as it tasted amazing and beyond what I imagined. So if you ever want to try Japanese food come to the Sakura Matsuri festival as it does not disappoint! The people who came to the festival were also a very unique experience because of their appearance but also because of their personality. The people that I talked to during the festival were really engaging as they had so many things to share. For example, I talked to people that traveled all the way from Taiwan just to participate in the festival. So if you like to eat food, engage with people, learn about Japan, the Sakura Matsuri is something that you should go to.