Saturday, May 10, 2014

Photos: 2014 Sakura Matsuri @ Brookline High School

The Genki Spark

Today was the third annual Sakura Matsuri at Brookline High School. For the past two years, The Genki Spark and the Brookline High School Japanese Program have presented this small community-oriented matsuri at the high school. The first year it was two hours long. Last year Karen convinced her counterpart at BHS to make it three hours. This year was the biggest ever - four hours long with performances from five New England taiko groups (The Genki Spark, ShinDaiko, Mountain River Taiko, Odaiko New England, Boston Miyake Taiko), a dance troupe (Takahashi Minyo Kai), and shishimai (Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko).

I have lived in New England longer than I've lived anywhere else and I can't say that I've ever really felt like I was part of the wider communities that I have lived in. I didn't realize until I worked for a summer program in California a few years ago what a huge difference it makes to see your culture reflected in the community around you. From the time I got off the plane at SFO, I was surrounded by reminders of the long history of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in California (many of them Japanese American) from the Asian-inspired art to the names of donors on the wall at a local clinic to the restaurants to the people on the street. Although I've spent a lot of time in Hawaii and experienced the same there when visiting family, it's so different from the East Coast it often feels like visiting another country. Somehow experiencing it in California when I wasn't on vacation was a revelation. Ever since then I've been making more of an effort to connect with Japanese and Japanese Americans in Boston. Unfortunately, since we have no community center or single clearinghouse organization, it's often difficult to do.

I don't remember attending any matsuris as a child but I did go to Japanese school and camp so I learned obon dance, played Japanese children's games, and heard traditional Japanese music. I can't remember if I ever saw taiko performed live but when I hear it, it's very familiar and it's music I connect with in my bones in a way I don't connect with American folk music. Thanks to The Genki Spark and BHS, I got to put on my yukata and spend an afternoon feeling like I was part of a community.

Red bean ginger mochi
dusted with cinnamon
They had plenty of activities and games for kids (including yo-yo, origami, face painting, design your own hachimaki) and a nice range of food. Sadly Ittoku ran out of yakisoba early and then sold out of okonomiyaki but there was sushi and edamame from Hana Japan and lots of fresh mochi from Mochi Kitchen. BHS students sold onigiri and baked goods. I spoke with Chiki-san afterwards and he said Ittoku would definitely be happy to be back next year!

Tewassa table
Tewassa, The Genki Spark, and some of the other taiko groups sold new and used Japanese and Japanese-inspired goods, some of which were handmade. BHS students were also selling handmade origami earrings.

Karen Young, founder and artistic director of The Genki Spark, said in her thank yous that this matsuri is community-driven and wouldn't happen without the help of all the participating groups, organizations, and businesses and the volunteers. This year's matsuri was staged in partnership with: The Japan Society of Boston, Showa Boston, the New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and two other Brookline schools: the Amos A. Lawrence School and the William H. Lincoln School. Food vendors were: Hana Japan (Newburyport), Ittoku (Brighton), and Mochi Kitchen (Somerville). The matsuri was sponsored by the Brookline Commission for the Arts, Temple University Japan, The Japan Foundation, New York, and the Brookline High School PTO. If you're a member of a Japanese or Japanese American group and would like to participate next year or you'd just like to volunteer as an individual you should contact Karen!

Karen, Genki Spark members, Brookline High School teachers & students - otsukaresama desu!

Some photos below. Additional photos here.

Takahashi Minyo Kai

Miyano Takahashi, owner of Hana Japan, Newburport
and founder of Takahashi Minyo Kai

Right: Karen Young, founder and artistic director of The Genki Spark

Odaiko New England

Boston Miyake Taiko

Shishimai - Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko

The Genki Spark

Finale - all groups


  1. Hi there! I'm in your 7th and 8th photos (red and black kimono and gladiator sandals) learning to dance. Would it be ok to post your photos on another forum, We're a community (mostly of non-Japanese) dedicated to kitsuke and other traditional Japanese arts.

    And, since I've just discovered your blog, I might as well kill 2 birds with one stone and ask you here: Have you heard of Kimono de Jack? It's an event/club that started in Japan to bring kimono enthusiasts together. I've been wanting to start a Boston chapter of the club for some time, but I haven't really put myself out there to seek out people who might be interested. Not trying spam you, just hoping to network and make some kimono friends :)

    1. Hi! Are you the one in red following the instructor in the black kimono or are you following the woman in the purple happi coat? You're welcome to post the photos with attribution to Japanese-American in Boston and a link back. Thanks!

      I haven't heard of Kimono de Jack! I should put you in touch with my friend Izumi-san. She wears kimono on weekends and special occasions. Send me your email at keiko [dot] in [dot] boston [at] gmail and I'll put you in touch with her. She had a booth at last year's Japan Festival at City Hall where people could try on kimono and have their picture taken. I'm not sure if she'll be at the Cambridge River Festival/Japan Festival this year. I forgot to ask.

      She was profiled in a NY-based Japanese magazine last year. If you don't read Japanese, you can get a poor translation from Google Translate.

  2. hi, not related to this post but - it'd be great if you can post any info about japanese restaurants or other venues that plan on showing upcoming world cup matches with japan. i'm thinking of ones that will cater to japanese fans, perhaps even with a japanese satellite/internet broadcasts. some korean restaurants do this every four years, and i'm sure japanese ones do too. thank you.

    1. Hi lossless - I don't cover sports because I don't follow any so I have absolutely no idea if any local Japanese restaurants are planning to show the World Cup. I've never seen Japanese TV on at any Japanese restaurant - my sense is that most of them have only whatever cable package they need for ESPN and don't have the ability to do any live Internet streaming, but I don't know for sure.

    2. Hi lossless - Just found out that Itadaki is showing Japan World Cup games although you have to RSVP and it's not free - cost is $10 and includes beer and edamame and 20% off additional food.