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Cherry Blossoms and Community, Brought to You by Honda

Sakura, sakura / they fall in the dreams / of sleeping beauty

Yosa Buson, Edo Poet 

April at the Conservatory means the blooming of our sakura trees, the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. This year, the Conservatory partnered with the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio to plan a Hanami cherry blossom festival, a seasonal tradition in Japan that encourages the enjoyment of spring’s colors and scents. With generous support from Honda, the Conservatory was able to invite everyone to be part of the fun by offering free Community Day admission for all Franklin County and City of Columbus residents. 2,649 visitors joined us to delight in the beauty of pink blooms, stroll through our gardens and biomes and experience all the magic the day had in store. 

Ruby White, the Conservatory’s Community Engagement Manager, helped to organize the performances and activities. She said that experience was nothing short of “epic.” A full day of arts and cultural activities awaited guests, including a memorable musical performance. Seated among the tropical foliage in the John F. Wolfe Palm House, more than 100 visitors felt and heard the booming of ten traditional drums from Dublin Taiko, a youth drum ensemble that keeps the tradition of taiko drumming alive. “It was impressive to see how in taiko drumming, the musicians look straight ahead,” White explained. “They barely glanced at their drum sticks throughout the performances. ” Even more impressive is the fact that all the taiko performers were young people in grades 6 through 12, running the gamut from beginning drummers to long-time drum veterans. They worked together with discipline and coordination to deliver two engaging, hour-long performances. “I kept noticing how focused these youth were,” said White. 

Afterwards, visitors peppered the experts from the Bonsai Society with questions about the care and growth of these diminutive trees. Did you know that the oldest bonsai, the Crespi ficus in Milan, is thought to be over 1,000 years old? 

Worthington International Friendship Association (WIFA) hosted a storytelling and dance performance, traditionally called kamishibai, or paper theater in English. The story they told that day also incorporated the Japanese tradition of tanabata, or wishing trees. White explained how it worked, “At a nearby table, you could write your wish on a paper flag, and hang it on the wish tree. As I hung my own wish, I saw others that said things like: I wish to become a better artist, I wish to get a puppy, I wish to feel better. By the way,” she was happy to share, “the wish that I hung came true!” 

Our friends at Columbus Kimono constructed a pop-up Fashion Studio with a lovely cherry blossom backdrop for a very special photo opportunity. Families donned yukata, a type of lightweight cotton kimono, wrapped with contrasting obi belts, and posed for photos with lanterns and fans, helping them learn about Japanese culture through experiencing the textures and colors of traditional textiles. Visitors also got a chance to try their hand at shodō, or calligraphy, at the station run by the Fort Hayes Japanese National Honor Society.

The day was a true celebration of culture and brought together families to enjoy the blooming cherry blossoms and take in the wonders of both nature and community at the Conservatory. “We definitely look forward to keeping this JASCO partnership as an annual event,” White enthused, calling it a template for everything a Community Day at the Conservatory can be. Thank you so much to our partners at Honda for helping to make the April Community Day possible!

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