The second annual Sakura-kai, a new tradition celebrating the iconic cherry blossoms that grace the University of Washington’s quad each spring, took place on March 29 in the East Asia Library. Braving the uncooperative weather, more than 80 students and community members packed the room, while many others were turned away due to lack of space.
Department Chair Paul S. Atkins, professor of classical Japanese language and literature, gave a talk on the significance of the cherry blossom in Japanese poetry, highlighting its representation of human ephemerality, while also emphasizing the social aspect of hanami, the Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossoms with friends and family each spring. A live video feed of the cherry blossoms played in the background, as students and community members were treated to demonstrations of traditional Japanese arts.
To commemorate the event, local calligrapher Shizu Usami performed a few of the many variations of Japanese characters that signify cherry blossoms. A demonstration of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, performed by Koh Shimizu of the Urasenke school, followed. The event was rounded out with a discussion of traditional waka poetry, and capped off with a lively question-and-answer session between the audience members and performers.
The popularity of the second annual sakura-kai demonstrated the community’s ongoing interest in the event, and suggested that the popularity of this new tradition will continue to grow in future years.