Japanese Street Festival returns to DC, expanding to 2 days for 1st time

Vendors and festival goers are seen at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

A dog in a Kimono at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival on Sunday in D.C. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Festival director Colette Fozard at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Vendors and festival goers are seen at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Vendors and festival goers are seen at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Vendors and festival goers are seen at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Marco Iwashita, Jennifer Sipat and Justin Fisher in one of the food lines at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Vendors and festival goers are seen at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Dorian Elie and Jazmyne Carter at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in D.C. on Sunday. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

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For its big 60th anniversary, the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival expanded this year from a one-day to a two-day festival, offering food, music and a market to celebrate the cherry blossoms.

It’s sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., and offers music, performances, a market and many traditional Japanese food options.

“We’re bringing the street festival here to the nation’s capital to really show some of the deep ties that exist between the two countries,” said festival director Colette Fozard.

She estimated about 35,000 people attended the festival Saturday.

They had four stages of performances and multiple food and market vendors. They also had two specialty pavilions this year.

“One is ‘Beyond Tokyo Regions of Japan,’ and you basically learn about other areas in Japan to visit. And then also, our ‘Smart Infrastructure’ pavilion, which highlights a lot of the investments that Japanese companies are making in American infrastructure, and also a lot of the new technologies they are developing not only in Japan, but also to bring to America,” Fozard said.

Jennifer Sipat from Virginia was in the food line to get a serving of Yakitori. She was enjoying “the vendors and all of the people watching with everyone with their costumes,” she said.

Justin Fisher from Arlington’s favorite thing he learned was “about sake, that’s been my favorite so far, different types of sake. I’m learning a lot about that, and I’m enjoying it.”

The festival takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th streets, with the U.S. Capitol in the backdrop.

Dorian Elie has big plans to visit Japan one day, so he enjoyed exploring the festival: “I really love Japanese culture and everything. I’m a huge anime nerd,” he said.

Aside from the drum and dance performances, he said he loved a lot of the food vendors there with traditional meals like, “chicken ball and beef on a skewer and it was just utterly delicious.”

Fozard enjoyed seeing all of the people walking the streets and learning about Japan.

“We’ve been really excited to see just how many people are coming out,” she said.

Jazmyne Carter said she was excited to go shopping. She bought her first Kimono at the festival.

“It’s always been my dream to go to Japan, especially Kyoto and see the Cherry Blossoms over there,” Carter said.

Marko Iwashita is Japanese and lives in Ashburn, Virginia. He was standing in one of the food lines and couldn’t wait to try some of the cuisine.

“I didn’t realize it was going on and we had an open Sunday and decided to come by and check it out,” Iwashita said.

Robert Northcutt lives in Silver Spring and came to D.C. for the festival. He visited Japan in the past and said the festival was a fun way to relive some of his favorite moments.

“To be here and to be celebrating and learning, it’s been a great time,” Robert said.

His wife Susan said “we thought it would be a fun event to do with our families and we’re having a great time.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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