Japan’s Shofuso House officially opened on March 23, the start of the 2022 cherry blossom season and its traditional cherry blossom festival is set to take place in person and has expanded into a three-day celebration.
The 2022 Cherry Blossom Festival, known this year as “The Shofuso Cherry Blossom Festival Sakura Concert Series”, will take place at West Fairmount Park and the Horticulture Center on the weekend of 8-10 April.
The festival, in partnership with communities in the Parkside neighborhood, has been revamped and will be unlike anything they have done in the past, including spotlighting local artists and using the power of music to bring people together from all neighborhoods.
“Although the house has been there since 1958, there really hasn’t been much effort on Shofuso’s part to involve local residents. And that’s kind of changing now, in light of the pandemic and the incredible amount of social discourse we’re all having, [for instance] the aftermath of the George Floyd uprising and also the anti-Asian hatred that we’ve seen,” said Rob Buscher, associate director of organizational culture.
“The Shofuso Cherry Blossom Festival Sakura Concert Series” is free and open to the public. The events will explore the intersections of Japanese and African American culture, from traditional to contemporary, through a range of musical performances by multi-ethnic hip-hop, jazz and percussion musicians. While food and drink will be available for purchase at the newly added beer garden, visitors are encouraged to go out and bring their own picnic supplies to gather with family and friends under the flower.
The Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center will also be open with special extended hours (11am-7pm) during the festival days, but an entrance fee is required to visit.
In August 2021, the Japanese America Society of Greater Philadelphia received a Re:imagining Recovery grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and is now using those funds to restructure its approach to Japanese cultural events, with the ultimate goal of becoming more inclusive. residents of the Parkside neighborhood and the deepening of relationships and connections between Asian American and Black communities in Philadelphia.
“There’s this kind of need to be more intentional about how all cultural institutions do their job. So with the Japan America company it’s kind of a shift because historically the people who ran the Japanese house and garden from the early 1980s until maybe the late 90s, they were American of Japanese descent, but over the past 20 years this has changed to become more like Japanese expatriates, [Japanese immigrants who recently settled in the states]as well as other people who are not Japanese,” Busher said.
According to Busher, now that more Japanese Americans have returned to the Shofuso space, they are also looking to engage with the predominantly black residents of Parkside through both culture and community work. collective organization that takes place in other Japanese-American community spaces.
“For the ‘Shofuso Cherry Blossom Festival Sakura Concert Series,’ we really focus on the music,” Busher said. “When I was approaching this, this program and then sort of working with our local neighborhood consultants. Music is the point of connection that we all saw immediately between Japanese Americans and African Americans,”
“The importance of jazz and hip-hop in Japan and among Japanese American communities. I mean, it’s just such a part of our community. There’s a lot of cultural exchange that happens when you watch the Japanese streetwear and you like the introduction into some kind of American hip hop fashion.Casio keyboard presets were among the early emcees of the 80s. There have been these kinds of interesting conversations for a long time,” Busher said.
Each day of the reimagined Cherry Blossom Festival explores some of these connections.
“On Friday, April 8, we’re having a hip-hop show and we have a bunch of artists, some who are Japanese-American, some who are African-American, who are kind of on that similar theme. We think of it as a cultural exchange, finding Hip Hop as a common ground to be able to do that,” Busher said.
This concert will take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Fairmount Park, and is free and open to the public.
“Saturday night, starting at 6 p.m., we have a Japanese Hawaiian taiko virtuoso named Kenny Endo, he will be performing with his troupe. And after that we have a local artist in residence, a Nigerian-born artist who’s been based in Philadelphia for 20 years, who’s a graphic designer and a DJ,” Busher said.
The resident artist will perform a live video art presentation during his DJ set on a projection screen.
“It will be among the cherry blossoms,” Busher said. “It’s happening on Saturday night and then on Sunday it will be an afternoon concert from 11am to 4pm which highlights both types of drumming groups. We’re going to be focusing primarily on taiko, but we plan to work with some of the neighborhood drum lines and the headliners for Sunday’s performance are actually from the Philadelphia Jazz Project. They come to pay a special tribute to the peace on earth of John Coltrane.
Coltrane debuted this piece in Nagasaki, Japan in 1966.
“So there’s this kind of story that goes with it,” Busher said. “He went to visit the ground zero of the atomic bomb and Nagasaki, and was so moved that you know, he then performed the song and the concert the following night.”
“Given Coltrane’s local connection to the Strawberry Mansion area, we thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight this and resurface, especially as April is also the heritage month of the Philadelphia jazz,” Busher said.
The final headliner scheduled for Sunday, April 10 is a Japanese Jamaican reggae band from Brooklyn.
For more information and to view the full lineup, visit japanphilly.org/