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Japanese culture celebrated at 13th Cherry Blossom Festival

Ashley SlobodaMay 20, 2019

It didn’t take much for Michael Tsugawa to attract an audience Sunday at the Cherry Blossom Festival, an event that also captivated attendees with origami, musical performances, martial arts demonstrations and haiku readings.

Tsugawa, a high school Japanese teacher from Michigan City, stopped passersby in the Allen County Public Library’s Great Hall by playing with a traditional Japanese wooden toy akin to the cup and ball.

“You feel a little like a carnival side show,” Tsugawa said, demonstrating some of the thousands of tricks possible with the kendama.

Tricks include variations of juggling the ball in the handle’s three cups and spiking the ball with the handle’s spike. The ball and handle are attached by a string.

“It really helps connect people,” Tsugawa said, noting he met hundreds of festival attendees because of it.

More than 9,000 people typically visit the Cherry Blossom Festival, a free event that for 13 years has celebrated Japanese culture. It is presented by the Japanese American Association of Indiana.

“It feels like we had more people than ever,” festival co-chair Dorothy Kittaka said, standing in a room that hosted tea ceremonies and a musical performance featuring a violin and koto, a Japanese string instrument.

Kittaka credited the event’s popularity to it being family oriented and multigenerational.

Tracey Teeter is among those who have made the Cherry Blossom Festival a tradition, having attended about four years.

The Fort Wayne woman enjoys the cuisine : food trucks were outside : and seeing people dress in costume for the cosplay competition, she said. She also shops the booths lining the Great Hall, she said, adding the day’s rain inspired her to buy an umbrella from a vendor also selling kimonos.

Elsewhere in the library, a standing-room-only audience filled the lower-level theater to watch : and listen to : Fort Wayne Taiko, a traditional Japanese drumming ensemble that is a program of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective.

About a dozen drummers took the stage and created taiko’s characteristic beat with choreographed arm movements. Many in the audience held up smartphones, apparently recording the high-energy performance.

“It’s such a blast,” artistic director Sara Sherman said afterward. “We love it.”

asloboda@jg.net

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