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Jackson Park cherry blossoms
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Park District

You can attend a cherry blossom viewing fest in Jackson Park this weekend

Enjoy the transient beauty of Chicago's cherry blossoms with the Japanese Arts Foundation's inaugural hanami festival.

Lindsay Eanet
Written by
Lindsay Eanet

UPDATE: The hanami event has been rescheduled for May 1. 

Chicago's cherry blossoms are set to begin their beautiful, fleeting bloom this weekend—and to mark the occasion, the Japanese Arts Foundation, Japanese Culture Center, Chicago Park District and other community partners are hosting an inaugural Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing festival, near Jackson Park's famous cherry blossom trees. 

On Sunday, April 24, visitors can enjoy robust cultural programming at Jackson Park's Garden of the Phoenix from noon to 3pm, with festivities ranging from dance performances to haiku and origami instructions. Saira Chambers, executive director of the Japanese Arts Foundation and director of the Japanese Culture Center, says the blossoming is a very celebrated and beloved time in Japan, during which people will camp out the night before with picnic blankets and enjoy the fleeting beauty. It's a reminder that life is brief and precious, and highlights the importance of being present for every minute of it. 

"In Japan, seasons are so important because they are so short-lived," Chambers says. "It's about coming together to witness this really fleeting beauty, and what makes it special is that it's not going to last."

At Sunday's event, performances include taiko drumming by Tsukasa Taiko and cultural dance and education group Shubukai, who will be performing a traditional dance for the Hanami festival. Guests can explore other traditional Japanese arts like origami and haiku at booths, and the Consulate-General of Japan will host a booth with traditional yukata (summer kimono) that guests can try on and pose with the blooming trees. The event is free and open to the public, with space accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Garden of the Phoenix, where the event will take place, is located on Wooded Island in Jackson Park, near the Museum of Science and Industry. The Japanese government and city of Osaka, one of Chicago's sister cities, have long supported the Garden of the Phoenix, and about 160 cherry blossom trees were planted there with the help of partners like the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago. This beautiful space by the Columbia River Basin thrives as a symbol of peace and understanding between the U.S. and Japan.

"It's a really lovely love letter between Chicago and Japan," Chambers says.

Last year, even without a formal event, Chambers says about 20,000 people came out to view the blossoms. One aspect of the event that particularly excites Chambers is the opportunity to introduce more Chicagoans—especially those who live near Jackson Park—to the Garden of the Phoenix, and offer programming in this significant public space. Chambers encourages people who are interested in supporting and preserving this space to learn more about the Garden of the Phoenix Foundation and their ongoing education, revitalization and sustainability efforts.

"The more people who know about the space, the more precious it becomes," she says.

A brief note on the rain in the forecast for Sunday: Chambers says the event organizers are monitoring the ongoing weather situation this weekend and will make a decision by Saturday morning around 10am with respect to rescheduling. If the event is postponed due to the threat of inclement weather, it will be rescheduled for the following Sunday, May 1. If postponed, the announcement will be shared on the Japanese Arts Foundation and Japanese Cuture Center social media pages. 

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