The gardens and cherry trees were in full bloom to help San Joaquin County celebrate Japanese culture and the coming of spring with the fifteenth annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Held next to the Japanese Gardens of Micke Grove Park in Lodi, the festival offers excellent opportunities to learn about Japanese art and culture.
Visitors were treated to a broad display of traditional arts, from pottery and swords to bonsai trees and traditional ikebana flower arrangements. Jessica Blevins, 17, and Steven Takehana, 17, from Tokay High School's Japanese Club could be found behind piles of color paper giving free origami demonstrations. They learned how to make folded paper objects like the turtle, crane and samurai from friends and how-to books. According to Jessica, "it's just fun". More hands on experiences were available in the form of traditional dance, when festival-goers were invited up onto the Memorial Building Stage to learn the Coal Miners Dance. Young and old alike seemed to enjoy learning the simple steps based on the motions of digging coal, shoveling over their shoulder, pushing a cart load of coal and then gesturing that they were done for the day.
Other cultural activities were well represented also. Acupuncture, dance, music and martial arts were performed for audiences. Omoto Senke school tea ceremony demonstrations were given in the Japanese Garden Pavilion. Mrs. Mikami Soa and her students performed a narrated tea ceremony that explained much of the significance of the deceptively simple ritual, explaining how each item and movement is meant to promote harmony, respect and tranquility. A display of art and information from Stockton and Lodi Sister Cities rounded out the festival experience with insights into similar, contemporary communities in Japan.
From the Pacific Complementary Medicine Center's examples of eastern medicinal herbs and acupuncture to San Joaquin Delta College Japanese Studies Department's personalized calligraphy, the efforts of numerous individuals, clubs, schools and businesses "blossomed" into a very enriching Cherry Blossom Festival experience