While most of the cherry blossoms in Fairmount Park have been gone for a week, the 2023 Cherry Blossom Festival was in full bloom just the same.
Sakura Sunday had much to offer, from tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese foods — to live performances and a children’s scavenger hunt.
Most of Fairmount Park’s cherry trees have been around since 1926, after being gifted by Japan to mark America’s 150th birthday. But Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation commissioner, announced Sunday that more cherry trees will be planted this year in anticipation of the semiquincentennial celebration in 2026.
“We have another donation of 600 more cherry trees that we began planting,” Lovell said, gesturing to roughly a dozen newly planted cherry trees. “Those trees are just a small portion of the 600 trees that are going to be planted not just in Fairmount Park, but in neighborhoods throughout our city.”
Lovell said the cherry trees, a donation from the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, are part of the Philly Tree Plan, the city’s first urban forestry plan. Lovell called it a “10-year blueprint” for the ongoing effort to build a better tree canopy, a move championed by urban planners for both health and environmental purposes.
The 2023 festival missed peak cherry blossom season by about a week, so few blooms remained on trees. But, hundreds of spectators used the opportunity to wander throughout the park, taking pictures of other flowering trees and plants.
At the Shofuso House garden, 15-year-old Charen Fnu said her family was excited to make a day of it.
“We’re going on a trip and taking pictures,” she said. “We expected the cherry blossoms, which they told me ended just last week — it’s a little sad, but there are still some cherry blossom flowers, so that’s good.”
Next to the Shofuso House, Casual Fifth, a taiko performance group, combined traditional Japanese drumming, song, and dance.
“The literal translation of taiko is a Japanese word that translates into a drum,” member Yuya Ishizuka explained. “The taiko that we do is a collection of these drums that have varying pitches, and we collectively use these drums to put together a performance.”
Ishizuka translated for fellow Casual Fifth member, Shoyo Hori, who recounted what Sakura festivals in Japan are like.
“[They are] typically a family or a friend gathering. We set up picnic stations underneath the cherry blossom trees and we bring bento boxes for our lunches, some bring saké maybe, and just have a good time with families and friends,” they explained.
A stretch of warm days to end the winter caused many trees and plants in Philadelphia to bloom nearly three weeks early. Images from WHYY News photographers show cherry blossoms around Philly began blooming in late March.