Pink petals everywhere: Cherry blossom season celebrations return

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Photo by Kylin Brown
Photo by Kylin Brown

At the University of Washington, wind whips through the Quad's 29 iconic Yoshino cherry trees to the delight of dozens of visitors. Beneath every baby-pink canopy, a young family, touristy photoshoot, or hanami picnic ensues.

Across town, in Seward Park, Seattle's first cherry trees have revealed their 93rd bloom since being given to the city by Japanese delegates in 1929.

Now, over a thousand of these fleetingly beautiful trees represent our city's friendship with Japan and a welcome change in season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations to honor the arboreal event are returning in person this year for the first time since 2019.

Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival
On Friday, April 8, the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival will commence at the Seattle Center Armory and Fisher Pavilion. The festival is the largest and oldest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, having been founded in 1976, when Japan's former prime minister, Takeo Miki, gave Seattle a thousand cherry trees in commemoration of the friendship between the people of Japan and Washington state.

This festival, hosted by Japan America Center Seattle, invites visitors to engage with several Japanese traditions, in addition to learning the significance of hanami, or cherry blossom flower-viewing. Head to Seattle Center on Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the event's kickoff, which includes feature-film screenings in the Armory, and shodo calligraphy demonstrations, tea ceremonies, and sake tastings and a discussion in Fisher Pavilion.

On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can expect music and dance performances, as well as lessons on important Japanese ceremonies, such as the sixth-century art of ikebana (ritualized flower offerings) and tea ceremonies.

Each day's festivities are ongoing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., leaving plenty of spring daylight hours to engage in hanami afterward. That is, once you understand its intense importance.

"Hanami... is a reminder to celebrate life," reads the festival's website. More specifically, writes author and accomplished doctor of ethnic studies Tamiko Namura, "it is an intense awareness and appreciation of the fragility and transience of beauty."

The Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival is sure to help cultivate that awareness. Learn more about the festival or find the full schedule of events at

The U District Cherry Blossom Festival
Meanwhile, a new festival has arrived in Seattle to engage businesses in celebrating the sakuras (cherry blossoms) in their own culinary or artistic forms.

One of the major cherry blossom attractions in Seattle is the Yoshino collection planted in the UW's Quad. This is the 61st year the iconic cherry trees, which are mostly around 90 years old, have bloomed there.

The school asks anyone who visits to not climb on the trees or shake the branches to protect the blossoms. Those who don't want to visit the campus can check out UW's live webcam overlooking the Quad.

To pay homage to the trees, the U District Partnership has gotten neighboring businesses involved in the first annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which started on March 25 and continues through Sunday, April 10.

Participating eateries are offering special sakura-inspired menu items, from flavorful cherry beverages and pastries to trendy pink cherry blossom boba. Leon Coffee House, for example, is serving cherry-filled croissants, cherry-flavored Italian sodas, and a cherry mocha topped with its usual super cute milk designs.

If you find cherries too tart, some eateries and cafés are offering tamer — but still very pink — flavors, like Time Bistro's sakura choux cream puff, which is strawberry filled.

Drink specials extend into the night thanks to bars and dinnertime restaurants surrounding campus, from the College Inn Pub's Rum Blossom Bomb or Sapporo beer special to Supreme Pizza's Hanami Sunset Cocktail.

Shopping venues like the University Bookstore and Woolly Mammoth Shoes are participating as well, offering specials, from cherry blossom art prints to discounted spring collections.

Find the full list of participating businesses at

As cherry blossoms fall down to the earth in the coming days and weeks, the time to celebrate is upon us. Learn about the history and significance of these trees in Seattle and their Japanese roots, or enjoy innovative pink food and drink to honor their beauty.