Morris Arboretum’s cherry blossom festival celebrates Japanese culture and spring

A crisp, but colorful spring day marked the final weekend of Morris Arboretum’s annual Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival in Chestnut Hill. The event was held as part of the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia, a project of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.

This time of year, cherry tree branches are filled with delicate blossoms. Petals float on breezes and blanket pathways.

The festival is more than just an opportunity to appreciate the flowering trees, it is also a celebration of Japanese culture.

Festival-goers watched as members of the River of Life Martial Arts & Wellness Center showed off skills in kenjutsu, an ancient Japanese swordsmanship technique. Used by Samurai warriors, it focuses on manipulation rather than strength. Attendees also took in a demonstration of zen archery, also known as kyudo.

Inside the visitor’s center, Fumiyo Batta instructed on the cultural significance and types of kimono, a traditional Japanese garment. Batta showed examples for her extensive kimono collection, describing the materials and styles worn in each season. She also enlisted several audience members as living mannequins in a kimono-dressing demonstration.

The highlight of the two-weekend festival, however, was the magnificent display of cherry blossoms throughout the arboretum. Guests strolled through the Japanese influenced landscape and sprawled out on the great meadows to take it all in. Shutterbugs practiced nature photography and posed loved ones under the trees’ flowering canopies.

The arboretum holds 35 varieties of cherry trees and has incorporated Japanese garden elements in the arboretum’s landscape, such as its Japanese Hill and Water Garden and a Japanese Overlook, built in 1905 and 1912, respectively, by designer, Y. Muto.

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