The word sakura refers to the Japanese cherry blossom. Every April in Vancouver, nearly 40,000 cherry trees – originally gifts from Japan in the 1930s – burst into full bloom. To commemorate the occasion, the city comes alive with a host of blossom-themed events, including a unique two-day celebration of Japanese food, culture and crafts under the cherry trees: Sakura Days.
This year, Sakura Days (April 7-8) is set inside the lush VanDusen Botanical Garden, a 55-acre sanctuary of rolling lawns, woodlands and lakes in the heart of the city. Amid a sea of cherry blossoms, enjoy sushi from some of the city’s top Japanese chefs. Sample artisan-made sake while taking in performances of Japanese taiko drumming and koto harp.
Hands-on types can participate in a traditional tea ceremony or get initiated in the art of ikebana (flower arranging). You can also try your hand at advanced origami, compose a haiku poem, learn the basics of Japanese calligraphy or get dressed in an authentic yukata (casual summer kimono).
The festival is rooted in Vancouver’s rich Japanese heritage. Many immigrants arrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in fisheries, farms and mills, some settling in a part of the city known as Japantown. Today, Vancouver is home to more than 30,000 people of Japanese descent. Their culture is evident in everything from the city’s huge appetite for sushi to its large population of visiting students from Japan.
To learn more about Sakura Days and Vancouver’s Japanese heritage, check out the official festival website. And for a full line-up of cherry-themed events, visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival page.