(Tamagawa University Dance Troupe)
photo by Yuya Omori
The 55th Sakrua Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival – 
Continuing US-Japan Friendship Presented Throughout the Day
 by Arisa Ishita
   This year’s Japanese Street Festival – Sakura Matsuri – took place on April 11 under the beautiful blue sky and with the cherry blossoms peak bloom. The Pennsylvania Avenue gradually began to have visitors and the venue was almost packed by the time the clock hit noon.
   Some of the exciting places to visit were the Japan Now area located in the east of the Pennsylvania Avenue, the Arts & Culture area located in the west of the Pennsylvania Avenue and Ginza Marketplace located in the south of the 12th Street. These areas displayed and showcased a variety of Japanese cultural merchandise. At the Taste of Japan area, both Japanese and non-Japanese restaurants set up their tents next to each other’s and prepared food. The area was surrounded by smoke and delicious smell that one could want to get the food right away.
Dogwood as a Symbol of US-Japan Friendship
   One of this year’s highlight events at the festival was the dogwood stamp presentation. This year marks the 100thanniversary of dogwood trees that the United States gifted to Japan. To celebrate, the Embassy of Japan in the United States of America and the United States Postal Service jointly hosted an event at the ANA Pennsylvania Stage. The stamps were named “Gifts of Friendship” and were also on sale at the USPS booth by the stage. During the event, JASW President, Ambassador John R. Malott, and Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae from the Embassy of Japan gave speechs. In conclusion, an enlarged image of the dogwood stamp was displayed between the American and Japanese flags at the center of the stage. There was a big round of applause in the audience.
US-Japan Friendship through performance
   Bonten, one of the performing groups that came to the festival from Japan, performed energetic, beautiful Taiko music. Mr. Masataka Kobayashi, the leader of the group, greeted toward the beginning of their performance that it has been seventy years since the end of the World War II and Bontenwanted to bring everyone smile. Then, Shinobue, the Japanese flute, played a beautiful melody of Amazing Grace. After their performance, Mr. Kobayashi said, “We are honored to be able to perform in this great place. I was first worried how Americans would think about our performance, but I am glad that they cheered and gave us a big round of applause.”
DOMO-kun and Doraemon were popular among different age groups
   DOMO-kun debuted in Sakura Matsuri this year. He appeared four times at the NHK World booth for photo taking and there was even a line in front of the booth. Similarly, Doraemon appeared at the Children’s Corner and it seemed the celebrity was popular not only among children but also among adults for taking photos.
   The 55th Sakura Matsuri had some emphases on the US-Japan Friendship, which were also the highlights of this year’s festival. In addition, cherry blossoms at their peak been overlapped with the date of the festival might have been a great luck as well.

   411日に行なわれたさくら祭りは、朝から一日良い天気に恵まれたくさんの来場客で賑わった。開始時間の1030分頃から徐々に客が訪れ始め、 会場はいつの間にか客であふれるほどの勢いとなっていた。
   ペンシルベニア通り東側のJapan Nowや西側のArts & Culture、そして12番通り南側のGinza Marketplaceでは、日本の様々な品物がそろい、日本文化の活気であふれていた。また、Taste of Japanでは、日本食を初め、ほか様々な食べ物を販売するレストランが並び、祭り開始時刻までにはあちらこちらで湯気が見られるなど、良い匂いを漂わせていた。
   ANA Pennsylvania Stageでは2時から、在米日本国大使館と米国郵便公社が協力してイベントが行なわれた。アメリカから日本にハナミズキが贈られて今年でちょうど100年経つことを 記念し、ハナミズキの切手「Gifs of Friendship」が販売された。ステージでは、日米協会を代表してジョン・マロット氏が、また、在米日本国大使館からは佐々江賢一郎大使がそれぞれスピーチをした。そして最後には、ステージの中心に設置されていたアメリカと日本の国旗の間に、切手の拡大版が登場し観客から拍手が送られた。
   日本から参加したパフォーミンググループの一つ、梵天の設立者、小林政高氏は、「今年は終戦70年、皆さんに笑顔を届けたい」と英語で挨拶し、二曲目は篠笛が奏でるAmazing Graceの美しいメロディーで始まった 。力強く迫力のある和太鼓と篠笛の演奏は、美しい音色を奏でた。梵天の演奏終了後、小林氏は、
   今回のさくら祭りで初めてのデビューを果たしたNHKのどーもくんは、230分から6時の間に4回の写真撮影の時間を設けるなど、NHK Worldのテント前には列が見られた。どらえもんはChildren’s Cornerに登場し、子供だけでなく大人の間でも人気だった。