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The largest Japanese festival in Vancouver takes place this weekend. Here's what to know

Dozens of food options, cultural performances, interactive workshops, cherry blossoms, and much more.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival will host its annual Sakura Days Japan Fair on April 13 and 14, 2024, at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is underway and its annual Sakura Days Japan Fair (SDJF) takes place this weekend.

Attendees can experience the city's largest celebration of Japanese culture on April 13 and 14 at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. 

Thousands of people are expected to attend the fair, which will feature multiple family-friendly activities, including cultural and performing arts, workshops, food, and, of course, dozens of breathtaking cherry blossom trees in full bloom. 

One of the highlights of the festival is a dance group from Japan, including Taiko player Keita Kanazashi and Tsugaru Shamisen player Chie Hanawa. 

"Keita’s style of performance, mixed with elements of Kendo, Japanese dance and Kabuki-bayashi is praised as a high balanced fusion of daintiness, sensitiveness and dynamism with strong passion, or even elegance," explain organizers in a press release.

The duo will perform on the SDJF's main stage, Cherry Stage, on Saturday from 2:30 to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

Another feature group will bring Japanese comic storytelling to the festival, known as Rakugo. The traditional practice highlights humorous anecdotes from daily life during the Edo period (roughly 400 years ago) in Japan. Okeichan will tell the stories with some small props and gestures.

Keiko will play the Japanese flute, the Shinobue, "with tradition going back hundreds of years," featuring traditional folk songs and Western compositions. 

The Rakugo and Shinobue performances will be held on the Floral Stage on Saturday and Sunday from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

The SDJF lists times and stages for its cultural performances on its website.

Additional highlights include:

  • Kagamiwari ceremony (Sake keg opening w/ wooden mallets) noon Saturday
  • Japanese taiko drumming
  • Local Japanese artisans & crafts
  • Haiku Installation featuring First Nations and Japanese-Canadian artists 
  • Ikebana floral displays
  • Japanese festival food stalls and trucks
  • Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations
  • Haiku readings
  • Martial arts demonstrations
  • Sake tasting workshops
  • Japanese dancing
  • Hand-on origami and calligraphy workshops
  • Guided Tree Talks and Walks to the cherry trees
  • Children’s stamp/activity rally
  • Traditional Japanese folk music

Sakura Days Japan Fair food and interactive workshops

The SDJF has increased the number of food vendors by 50 per cent, offering more options for people to "indulge in delicious Japanese cuisine, sip on premium sake, and immerse yourself in traditional tea ceremonies."

The food vendors will be located by the Lath House (beyond the Rose Garden) and the Upper Lawn (beyond the Cherry Stage).

The fair lists all of the food and drink vendors on its website.

Attendees can also check out several Japan Tent Workshops, such as children's stories by Vancouver-based Japanese-Canadian author Emily Satoko Seo, Japanese haiku poetry with poets Sophia Conway and Michael Dylan Welch, an introduction to Japanese dry rock gardens, or the Japanese art of flower arranging.

In the Samurai Photo Booth, attendees get to hold an imitation sword, a Japanese folding fan, and other photo props. Yusei Uchida, a Kengido martial artist, will show people how to properly pose with the sword.

The Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall (VJLS-JH) will also host a workshop with Japanese language lessons by its principal and calligraphy experience and origami paper-folding workshops. Workshop attendees will learn to fold origami and write Japanese characters such as “cherry blossom” and “spring” using a brush and ink. 

Sakura Days Japan Fair

When: April 13-14, 2024

Where: VanDusen Botanical Garden - 5251 Oak St.

Cost: Adults: $19.90; Seniors (ages 65+)/Youth (ages 13-18): $15.41; Children: $7.06. Get tickets.