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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Davis Cherry Blossom Festival seeks to honor Japanese hanami

Student organizers share what the festival means to them


By SUN YIE — arts@theaggie.org 


On April 9-10, the Davis Cherry Blossom Festival was held at Sudwerk Brewing Co., where community members came together for performances and traditional Japanese activities.

Cherry blossoms, also known as “sakura” in Japan, are a symbol of spring, a time of renewal and the ephemerality of life. Though their blooms are beautiful, they are also short-lived, and within this fleeting season, Japanese people celebrate the tradition of “hanami,” or flower-watching. During hanami, people will often commemorate the beauty of the blossoms by throwing parties, where they gather together to eat food and participate in traditional performative activities.

The Davis Cherry Blossom festival was developed as a way to honor this Japanese custom. The event gained momentum through the collaborative effort between Japanese and other Asian American student organizations at UC Davis and members of the Davis community, but it was first produced and founded by the UC Davis taiko group, Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan

Taiko” is a type of Japanese drumming that can be traced back to the fifth century and has been incorporated as a performance in a variety of contexts, ranging from military endeavors to religious ceremonies to modern socio-political movements. Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan is a fitting group to lead the revelries of the Davis Cherry Blossom Festival, as they seek to share their love for the Japanese traditional performative art through their explosive and expressive performances within the campus and the community. Additionally, they seek to revive taiko by blending modernity with its traditional and cultural roots. 

Ashley Shen, a fourth-year microbiology major and festival director, shared her passion for Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan and its involvement in this event, explaining that the opportunity to lead this project has enabled her to explore a community outside of school. 

“Taiko, especially, has a history of providing voices to marginalized communities, so it means a lot for people to come out and support us in our artistic expression,” Shen said. 

Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan is one of many organizations at UC Davis that participate in the Davis Cherry Blossom festival. SoNE1, N​​ā Keiki O Hawai’i and the Video Game Orchestra (VGO) are all UC Davis-affiliated groups listed on the event lineup that can be found on the Davis Cherry Blossom Festival’s Facebook page

Kyle Chuang, a fourth-year environmental science major and the president of VGO, elaborated on his collaboration with Bakuhatsu Taiko Dan. 

“Many video game composers draw inspiration from traditional forms of music,” Chuang said. “Although VGO seems like it won’t work well with taiko, they actually blend seamlessly together.” 

Additionally, the festival included artists all throughout California, such as Hear in Color and Yuppie Liberation Front. It also offered a number of activities that can be traced back to Japanese culture, such as mochi pounding, Japanese lantern painting and writing in Japanese characters. The diverse array of artists and activities reflects the diversity in Davis, as the community coalesced to celebrate a festival that pays homage to the Japanese custom of hanami. 


Written by: Sun Yie — arts@theaggie.org



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