The recognition of cherry blossoms, also known as sakura, began over 1,000 years ago during the Heian period in Japan. People were so taken aback by their beauty that they would stare, unknowingly planting the seed for a new tradition called hanami, which directly translates to “watch the flower.” During modern-day hanami, people will gather beneath the sakura trees with friends and family to enjoy the view as they eat a picnic, sip sake or simply relax.
During the 1970s, the Japanese government planted sakura trees at Yokota Air Base as a sign of friendship. Over 40 years later, we are using those same breathtaking cherry blossoms to build a sense of community with our Japanese neighbors.
In early April, Yokota opens the east gate to allow easy entry to McGuire Avenue for all of our off-base friends. Grab your picnic blanket and head out early to find a great spot under the sakura. Wander the street and peruse the different food and beverage vendors. Whether you’re interested in iconic Japanese festival food or looking forward to a piece of home with traditional American food – the Sakura Festival has it all. But don’t stick to your picnic blanket, there is still plenty to see and hear. With live performance from the PACAF Band and the Samurai Taiko Drummers, as well as face painting and balloon artists, there is fun and entertainment readily available for the entire family.
Sakura typically only stay for about two weeks during the spring. Don’t miss your chance to experience this piece of Japanese culture in your own backyard!
For more information, please contact the Taiyo Community Center at 225-6955.
Photography credit: Müge Jones