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Japanese Cuisine at Washington's Sakura Matsuri

The 58th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
The 58th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
Enjoy Japanese Cuisine at the Sakura Matsuri in Washington DC
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The yearly National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., has come to an end. One of its final events was a huge celebration of Japanese arts and culture.

The celebration is called Sakura Matsuri. Sakura means “cherry blossom” in Japanese, while Matsuri is the Japanese word for “festival.” It is the largest one-day Japanese culture event in the United States.

Thousands of people attended the 58th annual Sakura Matsuri Street Festival. They enjoyed the tastes, sounds and feel of Japan. Some visitors even arrived at the festival dressed up as Japanese anime characters.

The event featured sellers of Japanese foods and products. It also had performers demonstrating Japanese arts.

The Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. puts on the event each year.

Culinary Arts Pavilion

The chance to taste special Japanese food is a big draw for visitors. The festival featured a Culinary Arts Pavilion. Here, different groups of Japanese cooks described the history of traditional foods and explained how to make them at home.

Home-style cooking

The Care Fund is a Japanese-American non-profit organization. It provides information and social support for Japanese and Japanese Americans. During the Sakura Matsuri festival, Care Fund members explained to visitors how to make Gyudon and Sakura Mochi at home.

Gyudon, which means “beef bowl,” is a dish made of rice, beef and onion. It is eaten with soy sauce and fish sauce.

Sakura Mochi is a round, pink rice cake wrapped with a cherry blossom leaf. The treat is usually eaten in springtime.

Wonder of Wagashi

Yoshitaka Nishino is a professional Japanese cook of sweet treats. He is the head of Matsukawaya, a famous Japanese sweets company. At the street festival in Washington, Nishino demonstrated how to make Wagashi. In Japanese, “wagashi” means “Japanese confection or sweet.”

Wagashi treats come in all shapes and colors. They are beautifully designed and “truly a work of art,” Nishino said during his presentation.

“Wagashi can express the four seasons through color and shape,” he added.

Nishino prepared wagashi that looked like a cherry blossom petal. The visitors enjoyed learning about and tasting the unique Japanese candy.

Tea ceremony

The Culinary Arts Pavilion also presented the history of Japanese green tea. One of the most important tea cities in Japan is Uji, in southern Kyoto. Munetoshi Koizumi is from Uji. She teaches classes on the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or “Sado,” at Kyoto University. In Washington, she taught festival-goers all about the importance of green tea in Japan.

She said she came to the festival to “introduce the genuine taste” of green tea to people who have an interest in Japan.

Koizumi described the history of Japanese green tea, including Matcha, a kind of green tea.

“Eight hundred years ago, Matcha was imported as a medicine from China,” she said, adding that in the past, “Matcha was more valuable than gold, and enjoyed as amusement for nobles.”

She explained that Uji’s Matcha is a “first-class” tea.

One of her students from Kyoto University demonstrated a real tea ceremony for the crowd in Washington. After the student prepared the Matcha, one lucky audience member got the chance to taste it.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Rei Goto wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

anime characters ­n. one of the persons of an anime (animated Japanese programs)

featurev. to give special prominence to

petal n. one of the soft, colorful parts of a flower

unique adj. being that only one

genuine adj. actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character

audience n. a group of listeners or spectators

noble n. a person who is a member of the highest social class in some countries​