Photo Credits: ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE
Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, Sudwerk Brewing Co. host Japanese cultural celebration with music, activities
Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan invited musicians, visual artists and performers to Sudwerk Brewing Co. for the fourth annual Davis Cherry Blossom Festival. The free festival — which took place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 and from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m on Sunday, April 7 — has grown exponentially to become a full-fledged regional music festival in addition to it being a celebration of Japanese culture and spring.
The festival was founded by UC Davis third-year anthropology graduate student Gregory Wada and UC Davis alumna Kathleen Brandl. Wada is a Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan member and Brandl was the dock store manager at Sudwerk. This year, Dan Martin is the manager at Sudwerk and has continued the tradition of helping host and organize the festival.
Wada explained his and Brandl’s vision for the festival to foster understanding between people and to show that Davis is a diverse community.
“We had this conversation just about genuine human interaction,” Wada said. “There’s so much we can do to promote justice and things in our world through making the right policy decisions and fighting those battles — you know, yes, those are all important — but I think also there’s this landscape that needs to be addressed too that is just people interacting with people and promoting that civility and just that friendliness.”
“What we’re trying to do is really get people together and let them have a good time together,” Wada said.
Wada also encouraged students to come to see musical acts they couldn’t see anywhere else. Headlining artists at this year’s festival were Tanukichan, Jessica Malone, The Brothers Reed, The Midnight Dip and Big Sticky Mess, although more than 30 musical acts were present over the two days. The festival also featured other Taiko and cultural performances and a local artists’ gallery. Interactive educational and cultural demonstrations and games were available for kids.
In its first year, the festival acted as a fundraiser for Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan to host the Intercollegiate Invitational. Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan is a UC Davis performance drumming group that practices kumi-daiko, which Wada described as “one part tradition and one part jazz.” He explained that taiko’s history in the U.S. is one of expression and inclusion, aspects the festival aims to reflect.
“We try to get people from different walks of life and different genres of music,” Wada said. “But also, this year in particular, we have a lot of female-led bands and women artists.”
In keeping with this theme of supporting women, a percentage of proceeds from Sudwerk’s limited-edition sakura (cherry blossom) beer went to My Sister’s House. This Sacramento-based organization serves Asian and Pacific Islander women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking by providing support and safe havens.
Nilda Valmores, the executive director of My Sister’s House, said it is an honor for the organization to be the charity beneficiary of the festival.
“Funds raised will be especially helpful to help us purchase culturally appropriate outreach materials and conduct efforts that can help My Sister’s House more effectively prevent and intervene on issues involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, particularly for those victims / survivors that primarily speak Asian languages,” Valmores said via a written statement. “We are thankful to all the Davis Cherry Blossom Festival patrons!”
Portions of proceeds from vendors also supported My Sister’s House. Vendors included Street Cravings, Pollo Inferno, Koizora, Underdog Grill, Davis Creamery, Dumpling House, Puros Churros, Kobe Mini Mart, Korndogg Balloon and Face Art, Farm Fresh to You and SAFE Credit Union.
In addition to music and food, the festival offered: “Ikebana (flower arrangement) demonstrations by the Sacramento chapter of Ikebana International; origami demonstrations by Davis Origami Group; shibori tie-dying with Alicia Decker of the UC Davis Design Museum; mochitsuki (rice-cake making) sponsored by the Buddhist Church of Florin; shishimai (Japanese lion dance) by Miyo Uchida from the UC Davis Japanese department; and live painting by Gregory Shilling,” as listed on the press release.
Uchida spoke about shishimai and her experience with performing.
“It is usually performed for New Year’s festivals to bring good luck and then to just get rid of bad luck, so that’s why it’s a very cheering and festive dance,” Uchida said.
Uchida said she would be happy to perform at the festival and other places in the future.
“I hope I’ll get invited again,” Uchida said. “It’s a short piece — like five to seven minutes — so I’ll go anywhere to just show this lion dance […] to spread this joy through the lion dance in this region.”
Visual artists included JYNcreations, Pielodoodles, Smada Earrings, Shigeko Fukuya, Jeremy Dang, Alex Ryo Simotake, Kimchi Kawaii, Blythe Nishi, Of the Dirt Pottery, Brad “Brakinja” Kincaide, Celeste Wong Ceramics and Bike City Woodworks.
Other musical artists included A Few Drinks In, Busy Lighthouse, Carsick, Cloud Hats, Emmet Francis, golfdads, Indigo Elephant, Katgrüvs, Killer Caribou, Lillian Frances, Lost Again, Psychedelic Dub Orchestra, Sturdy Skeptics, The Chandelier Ravens, The Modern Wild, Violet Island, Your Local Cemetery, B. Hold, Video Game Orchestra, DJ Allen Brookside and Lo & The Mix.
This year, Davis Cherry Blossom Festival received support from the Yolo County Visitors Bureau and the City of Davis, which awarded the festival a recently-implemented grant from the Arts and Cultural Affairs Fund to support emerging programs and festivals in the city. This helped Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan and Sudwerk pay for the performing artists and make professional sound and staging possible.
Rachel Hartsough, the program manager with City of Davis Arts & Culture, said the city is pleased to support Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan.
“The things that I’ve been really excited about are that it’s a student group who just seems to be incredibly well-organized and professional, and has been super, super on their game as far as really being open to collaborating with other community partners, and creating something that’s going to celebrate culture in the community,” Hartsough said.
UC Davis Global Affairs, the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge and the Sacramento chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League also sponsored the festival.
Joanna Regulska, the vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs, commented on its support.
“Our mission in Global Affairs is to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement — and local events like this that bring together so many different people for a shared celebration align so well with this mission,” Regulska said via email.
Additionally, the Japanese American Student Society, Nikkei Student Union at UC Davis and Davis Aggie Lions Club provided volunteers that helped with managing traffic, staging, leading the arts, crafts and games for kids, welcoming attendees and helping with the mochi pounding demonstration and artists’ gallery.
Allison Huang, the assistant director of the festival and a member of Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan, said that it has been rewarding to see the festival’s growth.
“I think the most exciting thing about the event is really seeing everyone come together for our cause this year,” Huang said.
Written by: Anne Fey — firstname.lastname@example.org