Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival strives for balance of celebration and solace

The Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival starts today. This year, the annual event isn’t just a celebration of spring. Organizers say it’s also an opportunity to work through feelings about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last month.

Traditionally, spring is a time when Japanese people celebrate. Parties for graduation, new job hires, and all kinds of other events take place under the cherry blossoms. This year, some people have mixed feelings about rejoicing as Japan struggles with the aftermath of its recent quake.

Yutaka Sasaki, one of the organizers of the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival, says it can actually be good to continue uplifting traditions after an event like the recent quake.

"It takes time to get over something of this magnitude, but we can help."

If people come to the festival, he says they'll find much more than just exhibits to learn about the culture. Attendees can contribute to relief organizations, help build up a memorial wall and learn about tsunamis. His wife, Tazue Sasaki, says presentations will offer both consolation for the past and hope for the future.

“Because of the disaster, we’ll keep it low key. But I do still want to celebrate spring. You know, it’s a start, beginning.

Above all, she says just bringing the community together and teaching people about Japan is a big help.

Festival Details:

The festival starts at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 1 and runs until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 3. Events will be held at the Seattle Center in all of the following areas: Center House, Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center Pavilion and Skatepark.

Here are just a few presentations planned at the festival:

  • April 1, 2:30 p.m. - Struggling Cities:  from Japanese Urban Projects in the 1960s.
  • April 2, 2 p.m. - Coming of Age Ceremony, Seijin Shaki, for those reaching the age of 20.
  • April 3: Buddhist memorial dance for victims of Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.