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It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).
Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.
Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.
A few weeks ago I was going through my Flickr account when I found this album I created back in 2009 that has brought back memories for me. Here’s some background.
In late 2008 I underwent a hip replacement followed by several months of physical therapy. By early September I was starting to feel like my old self again. One day I was browsing through both the This is Blythe website and forum (both of which sadly no longer exist). I saw a notice in the Meetups section of the forum announcing a meetup of Blythe doll owners at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show that was held at a school in Waldorf. I was intrigued by the announcement so I went. I took my camera with me (this was long before I had received my first smartphone) and I also brought this doll, who was the model in this photograph that I actually exhibited in a few local art shows.
This particular Blythe is an Ashton-Drake Galleries reproduction of an early 1970’s Blythe doll that was manufactured by the now-defunct Kenner Toy Company. If she had been an actual Kenner Blythe, she would be sold on eBay for at least $900. But since that doll is a reproduction, I bought her off eBay for around $60.
The notice on the original forum didn’t specify what time everyone was going to meet nor did anyone respond with saying that they were going to be there. I decided to pack the doll while thinking that if no one showed up for the meetup, I could still peruse the doll show itself so it wouldn’t be a total loss.
Basically I met other people (I remember that it was all women there) with their Blythes so I took out my doll and introduced myself. We all took photos of each other’s dolls and someone urged us photographers to post our pictures on Flickr then post the link to our albums on the forum. I did that.
In addition I also wrote some notes about the event shortly after the doll show, which I found on my hard drive. I think I took those notes around the time when I was considering starting a new blog so it would’ve made sense for me to take notes so I would have some content for this new blog. I think I may have even considered it starting it in the fall of 2009 but I ended up not doing it. I think it was probably because I still didn’t feel ready yet and I was still getting over the last vestiges of that hip surgery. In any case I didn’t take the plunge and start this blog until January 6, 2010—four months after the Blythe meetup took place.
Thanks to the current trend of having Throwback Thursdays on the web, I can now revisit that event using the notes that I took back in 2009. Basically I went to the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show exactly 10 months after my hip replacement surgery. I carried my Blythe doll in a bag because I wasn’t sure if the meetup was really going to take place or not since no time was specified. (My notes said that the doll show itself took place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on September 12, 2009.)
I arrived at the doll show where I paid my admission fee and I was encouraged to fill out this ticket for door prizes that were being given away. A new name would be drawn every hour until all of the prizes were given away. I began to peruse the various vendor tables filled with all kinds of dolls when I saw three women who were openly toting their Blythe dolls. So I pulled out my Blythe doll and introduced myself. The other women were very nice and friendly and their Blythes were all very lovely.
I remember we all started to peruse the vendor tables together when one of the women who was working the doll show was walking around calling my name. I caught up with that woman and she said that the other women had just had the hourly raffle prize drawing and they pulled my ticket. So I walked over to the table that was near the entrance to the doll show and I had my choice of prizes. I remember that the prizes weren’t much and that was my only memory. I ended up picking this Asian doll that was encased in a plastic box.
I attempted to remove her from her box but her feet just wouldn’t budge so I figured that she was meant to stay in her box forever. There was some Asian writing on the bottom of the box but I didn’t know what it said since it was in a language that I was not familiar with.
After I picked up my new doll, I caught up with the others from the Blythe meetup. (I remember that it wasn’t a very big doll show so I had no problem with finding them.) At one point we decided to temporarily leave the doll show and eat lunch. We all carpooled over to a nearby Texas-themed BBQ restaurant where we displayed our Blythe dolls (and my newly won Asian doll) at our table.
We returned to the doll show after lunch where we shopped among the tables. A lot of vendors asked us questions about our dolls and seemed genuinely interested in Blythe. One of the vendors was kind enough to let us put our Blythe dolls among her merchandise and take pictures of them.
I also took a lot of photos of dolls other than Blythe. The show itself was held in a high school and the vendors were all set up in the cafeteria. The school cafeterias I used to eat in during my public school student days generally had no windows. This high school cafeteria was different in that one wall had a series of long windows that overlooked the hallway next to that room. The show organizers used the long windows to put up this display of dolls and stuffed animals. The toys displayed in the windows were not for sale at the show and the displays were pretty imaginative. Each window had a different theme ranging from Harry Potter to Raggedy Ann to fairies to dolls from around the world to Gone With the Wind. The window displays were really lovely to behold.
I remember that I stayed at the show for most of the afternoon socializing with the other Blythe doll owners until it was close to the time when the show would close. Soon after that meetup I uploaded my photos on to Flickr and I provided a link to my album on the This is Blythe forum.
I haven’t been to another Blythe meetup since that time. I went to a few other doll meetups but they were all for Asian ball-jointed dolls and I only went to the ones that were connected with an anime convention (mainly Katsucon and Otakon). The last anime convention I went to was Otakon in 2013 and I had pretty much stopped going to anime conventions because they had become way too crowded for my taste. (It got to the point where if you wanted to go to a certain panel, you had to stand in line for at least a half an hour before it began. Even then you weren’t guaranteed entrance because there were times when a room would be full by the time I had reached the front door of a panel.)
I haven’t been to another doll meetup since Otakon 2013. Right now attending doll meetups are a very low priority in my life. If one happens to occur near when I live and I don’t have anything else that I needed to do, I might go to another one just to check it out. Doll meetups are fun in that you can see actual dolls in person without having to buy them yourself but, to date, I have never made an actual friendship or created any kind of meaningful relationships through a doll meetup. Those types of meetups are basically focused on what dolls your brought rather than who the doll owner is and what does he/she do other than collect dolls. These days I find it easier to just look at photos of dolls on the Internet than to get in my car or hop on a Metro, go to some place, and meet a whole bunch of strangers where the only thing you have in common with any of them are dolls and everyone present basically talk about nothing but dolls the whole time you’re there.
The Southern Maryland Doll Club Show continues to be an annual event (the last one was held on September 12, 2015) but I haven’t been back since. I should think about returning for the heck of it, even if there is no doll meetup of any kind.
As for that Asian doll that I won as a door prize, I displayed her on a bedroom shelf for a few years.
Even though I thought she was cute, she didn’t really do much for me. The fact that she was permanently stuck in that plastic box enclosure didn’t help. The weirdest part about that box enclosure is that she’s covered on all four sides and the bottom yet the top has no lid or any kind of covering. That made dusting the doll a major hassle since I couldn’t remove her from that box. I placed shrink wrap over the top in order to keep out the dust. About a year or two after my husband walked out on me in late 2011 I ended up donating her to the American Rescue Workers as part of a general decluttering of my home.
I enjoyed myself at that one Blythe meetup but my biggest regret that I didn’t take any pictures of the other women who were there that day (although I took plenty photos of their dolls). I don’t remember their names or what they looked like or anything about their personalities. (Our discussions basically centered around dolls in general and Blythe in particular.) In fact, I haven’t seen any of those women since that meetup. If my memory is correct, I think it’s because the other three women all live in Southern Maryland while I live closer to Washington, DC so there is that distance factor. I also didn’t hang around the doll forums very much after my hip surgery so it was by chance that I happened to see that notice about that meetup in the first place. It’s still too bad that This is Blythe is no longer online because it was kind of cool reading posts by other members and seeing lots of nice doll photos.
At least I still have this Flickr album to remember that Blythe meetup by.
On August 7 and 8 I had two straight days of pure <squee!>. August 7 was BronyCon and some general walking in Baltimore, which I have already written about. The following day I went to another cute event that was located closer to my home. There was a Doll and Teddy Bear Show that was held at the historic Marietta House Museum in Glenn Dale, Maryland.
I have lived in the area for many years and I have driven past the signs pointing the way to the Marietta House Museum numerous times and I have never visited the place until recently. The Marietta House Museum is the former residence of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Gabriel Duvall that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When I first arrived, I felt like I had stepped back in time.
Seeing the grounds reminded me of my recent visit to Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland. The grounds of the Marietta House are smaller in acreage than Sotterley but the entire area still looked very impressive.
Gabriel Duvall not only lived there with his family but he also maintained his law practice in one of the smaller buildings on the property.
The grounds themselves are full of wooded areas, nice landscaping, and smaller buildings that were probably used for things like storage.
There is a family burial plot right on the property located in the backyard.
The main house itself is quite grand.
A glimpse of the window from outside only provides a subtle hint of what was going on indoors.
Inside the house it looks like there is an upper level and a basement. However, for the Doll and Teddy Bear Show, only the ground floor was opened to the public. In fact, these three dolls seemed to greet visitors while blocking all access to the upstairs level.
Admission was free and some of the items were available for sale. However, there were also other items on display that weren’t for sale. There was a mix of older dolls with modern dolls. I saw plenty of Barbies. I saw a few American Girl dolls (with handmade clothes for 18-inch dolls on sale). I saw plenty of porcelain dolls. I saw art dolls, ethnic dolls, small dolls, and large dolls. I also saw plenty of teddy bears as well. Some of the bears were vintage (such as Teddy Ruxpin) while others were perennial favorites (like Winnie the Pooh). All in all there were lots of things to see in such a lovely historical setting.
The boy doll in the next photo reminded me of a childhood photo of my father-in-law that I used to see displayed in the condo that he shared with his second wife. (I last visited that place in 2011 just six months before my husband left me for another woman. I haven’t been back since.) I found the resemblance to my own memories of that photograph to be quite eery.
There was a nice display of art dolls that were made by a group of tweens (between the ages of 9-11) who were taking a summer workshop in doll making. The woman who runs that workshop was selling some of those dolls for prices ranging from $130-150. I was talking for a bit with that woman and I mentioned that the nearby Makerspace 125 was running a series of monthly workshops in making art dolls and, so far, two of them were held—one in May and one in June. When I started to explain how we were making our dolls (as taught in the workshop), the woman immediately said “That’s crafting. What I’m selling is fine art dolls.” I felt put off because that woman had made a snap judgement. In addition, I had left the two art dolls I created in those workshops at home so I didn’t have anything to show. Plus she raised that whole ugly “Art vs. Craft” controversy that frequently permeates both the art world and craft world and I felt it was uncalled for.
All I know is that the next time I see the woman who runs the art doll workshops at Makerspace 125, I’ll tell her what happened at that show. It’ll be interesting to get her reaction to the judgement that her art dolls are really just “crafts.”
My encounter with that woman was the only sour part of the whole show. I quickly walked away from her after she made that comment. I have to admit that the art dolls that her tween students made in her workshop are quite nice looking.
All in all I had a pretty good day viewing all kinds of cute dolls and teddy bears in such a lovely historic setting like the Marietta House Museum.
It’s been two years since I last attended the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival that’s held in downtown Washington, DC as part of the larger National Cherry Blossom Festival. I thought about going down early in the morning so I could check out the Cherry Blossom Parade that precedes the Sakura Matsuri by starting at 10 a.m. But I was too lazy to get my act together so I could arrive that early so I basically ate breakfast and lunch at home then headed out to the Sakura Matsuri in the afternoon. (I was glad I ate my meals at home because nearly all of the food vendors had very long lines.)
I even dug out this Japanese imported Stitch hat that I purchased at one of the Otakon anime conventions that were held in Baltimore. I know it was before my marriage broke up because I bought it with my then-husband in mind because he was such a huge fan of the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch and Stitch was his favorite Disney character. I also remember when I modeled the hat for him and he was thrilled with it. That hat had been sitting in a drawer since my husband left but I decided that I could continue to use it because I think it’s a cute hat. Besides, it enabled me to blend in a little bit with the other people who were cosplaying. I even had several people at the festival notice my hat and telling me that they loved it. When I arrived in downtown DC, the one of the first things I did was to take a rare selfie of me wearing that hat.
Like most other years, the festival was very crowded. I still enjoyed myself as I looked around at the sights and sounds of the festival. I even took a few silly pictures while I was there. I recently started to follow the official Sonic the Hedgehog accounts on Facebook and Instagram and it was through social media I learned that there is something called Travel Tuesday where people can submit photos of a Sonic doll or stuffed animal either at an event or some famous landmark (like the Eiffel Tower). I decided to pack my articulated Sonic vinyl doll so I could take his photo for Travel Tuesday. Here are the photos that I submitted but, as of this writing, none of them have been selected for Travel Tuesday.
I also played around a little bit with the Hatsune Miku photo app on my smartphone. I thought it was appropriate since that character originated in Japan. (Although now that I look at the pictures, I realized that I should’ve varied the girl’s pose just a little bit since she had the same facial expression and pose. Oh well.)
I basically walked around shooting pictures of cosplayers and the various items I saw on sale. I noticed a lot of ram and sheep plushies on sale this year, which makes sense since 2015 is the year that’s known alternatively as the Year of the Sheep, the Year of the Ram, or the Year of the Goat.
I only purchased one thing at this year’s festival.
Yes, it’s chocolate gelato made by Dolci Gelati and it was very delicious!
While I heard musicians perform on the various stages throughout the festival, I only managed to capture one of the acts with my smartphone because it was one of the few times that I was even able to get close to a stage because everything was so crowded. As for the act that I captured, according to the program book, she is a pop singer from Kyoto named Jonetsu Mariko. I thought I recognized the name for some reason and the program book said that she was making a return appearance to the Sakura Matsuri. After I got home, I searched through this blog and I found out that I previously saw her at the 2010 Sakura Matsuri and I had also videotaped her that time. (She appeared under the name Jonetsu Marie and Shabondama High School.) In any case I took a still photo of her.
I even shot a short video of her performing on stage.
That video was the only one I shot at this year’s Sakura Matsuri.
I also saw that NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata was there with his race car, just like the last time I attended the Sakura Matsuri two years ago. Once again he appeared with Eneos, which makes motor oil. Eneos also had a bean bag toss game called “Cornhole.”
Getting on the Metro so I could go home was a bit of a hassle. The last photo shows the long line that I had to stand in just so I could enter the Federal Triangle Metro Station. I’m only lucky that I had the foresight to put enough money on my Metro SmartTrip card for a round trip so I wouldn’t have to stand in another line at the farecard machines.
After church today I went out to lunch with a friend from the same congregation to a Mexican restaurant that’s located near the church. Like many Mexican restaurants, this one has traditional Mexican folk art decorations on the walls, including these two wooden skeleton dolls that caught my eye. They looked interesting enough for me to take a couple of pictures.
When I was growing up outside of Baltimore, I can remember a time when many ethnic groups used to have festivals in Rash Field, located in the Inner Harbor throughout the spring, summer, and fall. That was in the days before Harborplace opened in 1980. There were German Festivals, Italian Festivals, Polish Festivals, Irish Festivals, Lithuanian Festivals, Jewish Festivals, African American Festivals, etc. I can remember when I used to go to many of these festivals with my family while I was growing up. The admission was free, there was a lot of entertainment for people of all ages, there were all kinds of food and crafts on sale.
Even after Harborplace opened, the ethnic festivals used to continue in Rash Field. Many people used to go to the festivals then head to Harborplace to cool off (especially on hot and humid days). But when an indoor complex known as Festival Hall opened in the Inner Harbor, many of those festivals shifted to that building. Festival Hall was air conditioned so it was an improvement over Rash Field. I still remember soon after I was married when my husband and I went to the Irish Festival that was held in Festival Hall and we met up with my parents there.
When the Baltimore Convention Center decided to double its original space, Festival Hall was torn down to accomodate the expansion. On top of it, the city of Baltimore began to charge fees for public events like ethnic festivals, so many of them migrated out of Baltimore. I was sad when this happened because the ethic festivals were pretty fun to attend.
Recently I was driving to Lutherville-Timonium. My plan was to go to Sea Breeze Pet Center, where I originally got my pet hedgehog, pick up some food for Spike, then drive south on I-83 to Baltimore so I could drop off my artwork that would be on display in the currently running Station North Arts District Salon Show.
I was pretty disappointed when I saw that Sea Breeze had gone out of business. At that point I decided to head on to Baltimore. I drove past the Maryland State Fairgrounds when I saw a giant banner advertising the German Festival that was being held that weekend starting the following day (Saturday). I began to kick myself for not waiting until the next day to make the trip (the art show also had hours on Saturday where people can drop off their art) where I could’ve been so disappointed about Sea Breeze’s closing that I would’ve decided to make the short drive to the German Festival, stay there for about an hour or two, then go to Baltimore.
The next day I woke up and I began to think about that German Festival banner I saw the day before. I remember my fond memories of attending the German Festival when it was held in Rash Field and it would be a rare opportunity for me to eat German food and revel in German culture. (That’s because I live in an area where Salvadoran, Peruvian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Chinese restaurants are more prevalent.) The downside would be that I would be making another long car commute to the Timonium area for the second day in a row. Despite that downside, I decided to go for it because it has been a long time since I ate anything at a German restaurant and it has been several years since I last attended the German Festival when it was still held in Baltimore.
Here’s the building on Maryland State Fairgrounds where the German Festival was held.
The rest of the photos show all the aspects of the German Festival. There was plenty of German beer and wine to choose from. There was prepared German food for eating at the festival or for takeout. (I even took a photo of this slice of Black Forest cake that I purchased for myself). There was packaged German food for future meals and snacks. There was German music and dancing. There were information tables about the German American Associations in Maryland. There were German crafts. There were also Polish-style ceramic cookware and Russian matryoshka dolls. There was even a Punch & Judy puppet show for children. I managed to stay around for a few hours and enjoy myself.
Late last Wednesday I managed to slip away to the Mall in Washington, DC where I checked out the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. It’s my first visit to that festival in a number of years. Other years I’m either taking the annual family vacation to Ocean City or the temperature is too hot and humid for my liking. This year I’m not going to Ocean City and the weather was warm but not too humid when I went to the festival. (Since that day the weather has been plunged into this massive heat wave that currently shows no signs of letting up.) I brought my DSLR camera with me and took a bunch of pictures of the festival.
Like other years, this year’s festival was divided into three areas, each one focusing on a particular topic. One of them was on the 150th anniversary of the founding of both public universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Each booths featured a different public university and a single theme. The next few photos are of my own alma mater, the University of Maryland, whose booth emphasized robotics.
I also took photos of other university exhibitions, such as this nice hut-like structure that represented the University of Hawai’i.
One of the workers at one of the university booths was dressed in the funkiest costume I’ve seen in quite a while.
Another university booth had a fiberglass statue of a cow with squeezable udders that visitors could squeeze to simulate milking a real cow.
Then there was the festival’s second themed area, which focused on the arts and culture of those Washington, DC neighborhoods that are located east of the Anacostia River.
This area had some very colorful murals, some of which were still works in progress when I visited.
Finally there is the third themed area of the festival, which was devoted to the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the AIDS virus and the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Quilt.
There were AIDS quilt panels displayed in various booths and other places on the Mall.
There were many more quilt panels stored on shelves waiting to be unfurled and displayed.
These sewing machines were there for quilt-making demonstrations.
This is the area where the bulk of the AIDS Quilt would be placed for the duration of the festival. I came on the first day of the festival and, as you can see, there were already walkways set up but the quilt itself wasn’t set up even though I arrived just an hour before the festival’s daily 5:30 p.m. closing time.
This area also featured similar responses from other nations, most notably South Africa (which currently has the highest rates of new HIV/AIDS infections in the world). Here’s a tower from South Africa that featured dolls.
There were other AIDS-themed art from South Africa on display at the festival.
Last Saturday, while I was in the middle of preparing my home for yesterday’s Open Studio Tour, I decided to take a few hours off from the intense cleaning up and decluttering to head to downtown Washington, DC for the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival, which was held as part of the larger National Cherry Blossom Festival (which is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first cherry blossom trees from Japan). I just needed the break from the stress of preparing for that art event as well as the recent stresses in my personal life stemming from my health problems and marital serparation. I took my camera and took a boatload of pictures which I whittled down to the ones I posted in this entry.
A group of sailors wait to go inside the Naval Heritage Center near the location of the Sakura Matsuri festival grounds.
Here are some banners with some inspirational message at the Sakura Matsuri festival.
One tent included some people getting seriously involved in the Japanese board game Go.
One tent offered an opportunity to learn some Japanese.
This cherry blossom tree had leaves made from green paper (which were also inscribed with messages) and flowers made from pink marshmallows.
This booth had banners where people could write messages for the people who are living near the beleagured Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
This booth featured some lovely Japanese art.
Here’s the sign announcing the Beer Garden featuring the Japanese beer Kirin. Last Saturday there was a similar beer garden at the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival but that one was way bigger than the one at the Sakura Matsuri. In addition, the smaller Beer Garden was very packed with people so I didn’t bother drinking any beer this week.
Here are some nice looking bonsai.
Unlike previous years that I attended the Sakura Matsuri, I arrived at the festival later in the afternoon this year. The big advantage is that I was able to eat lunch at home without having to wait in long food lines at the festival. The only food I purchased at the festival was a couple of sweet treats from one booth. The wrapping was so gorgeous that it was almost a shame to rip it all apart. But I opened both wrappers when I got back home. The treat on the left side of the photo below was a cherry that was coated with a Jello-like substance. That treat tasted okay but I preferred the treat on the right. It was known as a Fuku Watashi but it was basically a wafer sandwich that had cream in the middle. That one was very delicious.
One tent had a demonstration of the latest video games from Japan.
There was plenty of live entertainment from Japan at this festival.
Here are the Japanese dolls and action figures that were for sale.
There was a wide variety of jewelry and ornaments for sale.
One could buy a kimono or yukata at this festival.
There was a wide variety of masks and hats that one could buy that were shaped like various cartoon/video game characters.
There were all kinds of plushies available for sale.
The most unique plushies were sold by this booth that specialized in sushi plushies. Seriously!
Like previous years, there were plenty of people engaged in cosplaying at this year’s Sakura Matsuri.