Named for the flowers that are an important symbol of spring in Japan, the Fort Wayne Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates Japanese culture in Northeast Indiana. In 1977, Fort Wayne began its Sister City relationship with Takaoka, Japan. Since then, the relationship has flourished. There have been student exchanges between schools and even a physician’s exchange sponsored by Parkview Hospital. The Cherry Blossom Festival began in 2007 as a way to commemorate the Sister City history. Eight years later, the festival has grown to a two day extravaganza that fills up the entire Library Plaza downtown.
There is something for everyone at the festival whether you know a lot about Japanese culture or have a lot to learn, whether you are young or old. I have loved learning about Japan since I realized that some of my favorite TV shows as a child (Pokémon, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura) were actually Japanese anime. I continue to enjoy learning, and that is really the basis for the Sister City connection: to foster understanding. So spend some time in Fort Wayne being a part of a cultural exchange.
This year the festivities begin on Saturday, May 16 with two showings of the Academy award-nominated film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. This animated feature is based on a Japanese folktale. It has been hailed as a beautiful film produced by Studio Ghibli, and it currently boasts a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film will be shown on the big screen of the state-of-the-art theater at the Main branch of the Allen County Public Library. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased here.
On Sunday, May 17 the festival features performance art, vendors, and food, this time filling the inside and outside of the Main library. It is a family-friendly affair with activities for children as well as adults. Activities run the gamut from pop culture to traditional arts. There will be the ever-popular anime drawing contest and a cosplay contest, in which participants wear the costumes of their favorite anime characters. Ohio Kimono will have kimono on display and for sale. Local O’Daniel Mazda Dealership will have a car show in the library parking lot and will host a scavenger hunt.
One of my favorite parts of the festival last year was hearing the beautiful traditional music. This year Grammy award-winning pianist Angelin Chang will be playing traditional Japanese music on the piano in concert with a local musician trained in classical guitar. There will also be performances of the Japanese martial art of kendo, traditional drums from Fort Wayne Taiko, a tea ceremony, and classical Japanese dance performed by Fujima Ryu of Chicago.
There will also be plenty of food from Asian grocery stores and restaurants to fuel you throughout the day. So get ready to have a favorite dish or try something new.
For parking, I recommend getting to the library early and parking within a 2 block radius of the library. Since the festival is popular, parking can get crowded. There are parking spots along the street and a couple parking garages within walking distance. The Fort Wayne Civic Center Parking is located at 100 Washington Blvd and is only a few blocks from the library.
What: Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Main Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
When: May 16 @ 12:30pm and 2:30pm May 17 12pm-5pm
Tickets for one of the Saturday movie showings are $5 each. Entry into Sunday’s event is free.