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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.
Last Saturday, the day before Easter, I decided to head out to the National Building Museum in downtown Washington, DC because of a free event that was held as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival known as Family Day. I arrived at the very majestic and historical National Building Museum, which is usually a feast for the eyes both inside and outside.
The various cherry blossom related activities and decorations enhanced the inside of the building even more.
The major high point for me was seeing this drawing robot in action. It’s known as the Kawasaki DuAro and it was available for drawing people’s portraits in ink.
I would’ve loved to have had the robot draw my portrait but the line to use the machine was a bit long so I had to settle for shooting this short video instead.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, which is the agency that frequently gets maligned by right wing extremists like Cliven Bundy as well as certain Republican lawmakers. Most people in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area don’t see the National Park Service as the enemy so most of us don’t really have any issue with certain areas being run by that federal agency. The National Park Service had an activity center for kids as a tie-in with the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Family Day and they will be more such tie-ins as the festival continues for the next few weeks.
The cherry blossom trees were at their peak bloom on that day. While many out-of-towners tend to gather and crowd around the trees planted in the Tidal Basin, it’s not the only place in Washington, DC where one can find blooming cherry blossom trees. There were quite a few just outside the National Building Museum and they were nowhere near as crowded as the ones in the Tidal Basin.
There were a couple of skateboarders using the National Building Museum’s steps to practice their tricks.
I also walked around the nearby Chinatown area. Chinatown was once home to Chinese immigrants, many of whom started businesses in that area. In recent years these locally owned stores have been replaced by chain stores and restaurants. One interesting fact is that, due to a DC ordinance that the signs in Chinatown be bilingual in English and Chinese, many of these chain businesses display their signs in both languages.
I made a stop at It’s Sugar, which I’m well familiar with due to the numerous trips I’ve made to its Baltimore location. The DC store is small compared to the one in Harborplace but it’s still full of all kinds of sweet goodies, some of which comes from all over the world.
The focal point of Chinatown is the Friendship Archway, which is reputed to be the largest of its kind built anywhere in the world. It is a very impressive structure to see in person.
A street performer croons a tune to people coming to and going from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station.
While the chain stores and restaurants have displaced many of the original Chinese businesses, there are a few that remain. But these businesses seem to be more and more in the minority compared with the chains.
These Chinese businesses still have Chinese style reliefs and other art on the sides of the buildings, such as this relief in the next photograph.
Wok and Roll, located at 601 H Street, Northwest, is a restaurant that serves Chinese and Japanese dishes. A plaque next to the front door notes the fact that, during the Civil War, it was a boarding house that was owned by a widow named Mary Surratt, who ran it in order to pay off debts that were left by her late husband. It was there where Mary’s son, John Surratt, met with John Wilkes Booth and a few other Confederate sympathizers in order to plan the kidnapping of President Abraham Lincoln. After Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Mary Surratt was arrested and later hanged on conspiracy charges. To this day historians still debate whether Mary Surratt was really involved with the conspiracy against Lincoln or if she was just a victim of circumstance.
I had a rough few days with getting my taxes done on time. I managed to get them in the mail at 3 p.m. on April 15 just two hours before the local post office makes the final collection of the day. The next day I felt really burned out so I decided to spend the late afternoon doing something fun. I decided to check out the cherry blossom trees in the Tidal Basin for the first time in two years. (During that last time I was working on a photostory involving my Makies doll for a contest.) At times I also played around with that Hatsune Miku photo app so you’ll see those photos as well.
The gates at the Smithsonian Metro Station were decorated with pink cherry blossom decals.
It was the fourth and final week of the National Cherry Blossom Festival but the only event scheduled that week was an 11-mile bike ride through downtown DC that was scheduled on April 18 (just two days after my Tidal Basin visit). The cherry blossoms were past their peak bloom but there were still plenty of flowers to admire along with tiny green leaves that were budding next to the flowers. They still made pretty pictures, such as the next two photos, (one of which includes the Washington Memorial).
Many of the petals had fallen to the ground, which resembled a light dusting of pink snow.
While the cherry blossoms were past their peak, the flowers in the nearby Tulip Library were just starting to bloom. There were a wide variety of tulips and daffodils in a variety of shapes and colors, providing such a feast for the eyes!
I shot Hatsune Miku sitting among the tulips.
Many of the cherry blossom trees provided nice photography in various places, such as one place where the Jefferson Memorial can be seen in the far horizon.
I took a couple of photos of Hatsune Miku with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.
The Stone Lantern can be seen in the next photo along with some nicely landscaped boulders complimenting it.
Here’s Hatsune Miku next to the Stone Lantern.
The newest of the Tidal Basin memorials, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, can be seen in the next photo.
Here’s Hatsune Miku at the MLK Memorial.
The MLK Memorial is so big that one can see it from a distance. (Yes, the white speck along the Tidal Basin is the memorial.)
The Washington Memorial is another one that can be seen from a great distance.
The next photo below shows the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. On this last visit I noticed one thing about that statue of FDR.
His one finger seems shiner than the rest of the statue. It seems like visitors have been playing a variation of “Pull My Finger” for some weird reason.
Parts of Fala’s ears and nose also seem very shiny compared to the rest of the statue. It seems like people have been petting the statue as if he were a real living dog.
I had Hatsune Miku pose next to FDR and Fala giving a peace sign. The big irony is that Hatsune Miku originated in Japan and, well, FDR had that notorious policy that were aimed at American citizens who happened to be of Japanese descent even though none of them had anything to do with Pearl Harbor.
Just beyond the FDR Memorial is the Stone Pagoda. Of course I took a couple of photos of Hatsune Miku next to that one as well.
As I walked away from the Stone Pagoda I crossed the pedestrian bridge that’s over the inlet (which connects the Tidal Basin to the Potomac River), which features this hidden charm. It’s a fountain (which hasn’t worked in years) which has a creature that has the head of a grown man and the body of a fish-like creature. Underneath is a clamshell-shaped sink that would catch excess water if the fountain was working. This fountain never gets mentioned in any of the official guide books but it’s worth searching for while you’re crossing that pedestrian bridge.
I eventually made it to the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial where I saw people taking photos of a member of the Park Police on horseback.
I took my last photo of Hatsune Miku on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.
Unlike previous trips, I didn’t bother going up the steps to visit the statue of Thomas Jefferson this time because I felt really tired. Between getting the taxes done and preparing for the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire, I was more tired than usual and I was happy just skipping the walk up those steps.
As I walked past the Bureau of Engraving and Printing building on my way back to the Smithsonian Metro Station, I saw this charming cherry blossom banner that I couldn’t resist photographing.
On my way back to the Metro station, I noticed a sign signifying that I was on a portion of the East Coast Greenway. This is the third such sign I’ve seen after seeing others in Baltimore and at Lake Artemesia in Berwyn Heights, Maryland.
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.
Last week I alluded to the fact that I walked around the Tidal Basin amid the budding and blooming cherry blossoms because I was working on a project. Now you can see the results of that project. As some of you may know, last year I checked out this UK-based website called Makies where you can create your own avatar for free. (And you can create as many avatars as you want.) If you want to have a real-life version of any of your avatars, you can press a button online, pay via PayPal or a credit card, and—voila—you get a doll (or action figure) version of your avatar. The doll/action figure is created using the new 3D printer technology that has gotten plenty of attention in the media in recent months. So I tried it last year and I now have a cute blue-haired elf doll that I named Victoria.
I recently took Victoria with me to Washington, DC where I took photos of her among the various famous tourist attractions (including the cherry blossom trees in the Tidal Basin). I edited the photos when I got home and created a series of short photostories for this contest whose deadline was today. (Ironically it’s the same day as Tax Day. I had quite a week where I simultaneously worked on my both my contest entries and my own taxes while seeing my divorce become final. One day I’ll look back on all this and wonder how I managed to do it all without suffering a nervous breakdown. LOL!)
I had to download this app on my iPad called SlickFlick, which wasn’t so bad since it’s a free app. I downloaded the photos on my MacBook computer, did the initial editing in Photoshop, transferred them over to iPhoto, synched them over to iPad, imported them into SlickFlick where I added the captions, put the photos in a certain order, then uploaded them online. SlickFlick is easy to use. The only downside is that SlickFlick is very buggy and it crashed a few times on my iPad. There were other times when something happened during the uploading process and the photostory wasn’t posted so I had to re-upload it. (There was one story that I finally got online after four tries.) I think SlickFlick has potential but the app definitely needs more work.
I originally thought about doing one long photostory titled “Victoria Goes to Washington” but I ended up breaking the photostory down into shorter ones because it not only made the work easier (since I only dealt with one bite-sized piece at a time) but I was also dealing with a buggy app and it was easier to do shorter photostories with it.
You can view them online right now either through the SlickFlick app or, if you don’t have that app, you can simply click on the links below. The photostories could be read in any order since it’s more of a travelogue than a linear story.
I won’t find out about the contest outcome for a while but I’ll keep you posted, especially if I win anything.
UPDATE (January 16, 2017): One day I decided to visit my old photostories on SlickFlick.com for old time’s sake only to discover that the site doesn’t exist anymore. (I guess that means that the SlickFlick app doesn’t work anymore but I haven’t tried it mainly because I haven’t used it at all since I entered that Makies-sponsored contest back in 2013.) The good news is that I found my old photostories on the Internet Archive so I updated the links to reflect that.
Here is a video I shot of the band Hifana during their performance at last month’s Sakura Matsuri street festival in Washington, DC. Hifana is a Japanese band from Okinawa who performs polyrhythmic tunes on a variety of instruments and electronic devices. This was the only video I shot at this year’s Sakura Matsuri 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.
Last Saturday I decided to check out the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, which was held as part of the Centennial National Cherry Blossom Festival. It started at 1 p.m. and went on until the closing fireworks started at 8:30 p.m. I headed in the early afternoon and left long before it became dark mainly because I took a long walk and the festival got more and more crowded as the day went on. But it was a glorious sunny day where the temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold.
If you look at the history of the Southwest Waterfront area of Washington, DC, you’d know that it originally housed working-class people until the 1950’s when the city decided to undergo this ambitious urban renewal project. Not only were whole families displaced to other parts of the city but there have been plenty of criticism of the modern architeture that replaced the original historic buildings. Here’s an example.
This modern triangular building is actually the Riverside Baptist Church.
No, this isn’t Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland area of the Magic Kingdom. This is actually the federal government offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This next picture shows some rowhouses that were among the few historic buildings that weren’t destroyed by urban renewal.
Here’s the shot tower at Fort McNair, a historic army base that remains in operation at the Southwest Waterfront.
This year marks not only the 100th anniversary of the planting of the cherry blossom trees that were sent to Washington, DC from Japan. April 14 will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which cost a lot of lives mainly because the ship didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone after the ship hit an iceberg and started to sink. This memorial below was erected to honor the men on the Titanic who gave up their lives by allowing women and children priority on boarding the lifeboats.
It has been a number of years since I last visited the Titanic memorial but the one thought that struck me as I viewed the memorial is this: I now know where Titanic director James Cameron may have gotten the idea of these famous scenes from.
After I visited the Titanic memorial, I walked along the Southwest Waterfront trail, which is very scenic.
Here are some signs that greeted me as I reached the area where the festival took place.
Some children were sailing some homemade boats in a pond.
These people were creating cherry blossoms and animals from balloons.
This photo below shows one of three stages that featured a variety of musical acts at the festival.
Here are some of the official National Cherry Blossom Festival Centennial souvenirs that were available for sale.
Here’s the John H. Glenn Fireboat Spectacular.
There was actually an outdoor display and demonstration of the latest Glade air freshner products.
A hands-on origami demonstration.
A few pirate cosplayers.
The flags of Japan and the United States fly high in the breeze.
These people wore goofy hats while selling various toys on carts.
Here’s the Waterfront Beer Garden where you can get the Japanese beer Kirin on tap for $5.
I stood in line outside this Safeway booth where I got a free Cherry Blossom Festival bag (marked with Safeway’s logo), a free bag of chips, a free granola bar, and a free sample of this cherry flavored health drink.
My visit to the Southwest Waterfront Festival ended with a visit to The Verry Cherry Marketplace section that featured handcrafted items from local artisans.
Due to my own tight budget these days, I didn’t buy anything there. But there were a few booths that I really liked including: