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Sakura Matsuri 桜祭り

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2021 Virtual Cherry Blossom Festival

Welcome to JASA's virtual Cherry Blossom showcase! We miss seeing you all in person but are glad to have this opportunity to share Japanese culture with you in a new format in honor of the sakura season. We hope that you will enjoy this variety of live demonstrations and interviews with some of our regular guests at the festival.

Cherry Blossoms, or sakura, only bloom for a few weeks each year. In Japanese culture, sakura represent mortality and remind viewers of the beauty and transience of life. Thousands of people flock to parks in Japan to see the blossoms for hanami (flower viewing).

We are lucky to have cherry trees all over Alabama that bloom each Spring. We encourage everyone to venture outside this month to appreciate the cherry blossoms! Note: Please respect social distancing guidelines and your area's COVID-19 precautions when attending any public gardens and parks. Visit Alabama Department of Public Health for more information on how to stay safe.

This festival page will be available until May 1, 2021. After this date, all interviews and demonstrations will be available on our YouTube channel here! Visit the channel for quick access to all of our cultural videos.

Live Demonstrations

PaperWorkers Local - 10:00am to 12:00pm Demonstration

"PaperWorkers Local is a non-profit artists' co-operative established the summer of 2013 in Birmingham, Alabama. We are a group of artists actively working to promote the understanding and appreciation of art as well as to create opportunities for artists in and near Birmingham, and beyond. We do that by building community among Birmingham's printmakers, providing professional-quality studio and exhibition space and by providing workshops at all levels. Since 2013 we have operated a co-operative work space where we also offer workshops and host public art exhibitions and artist’s talks." 

Richard Stockham, resident moku hanga (木版画) expert at PaperWorkers Local, will be joining our Virtual Cherry Blossom Festival with a special demonstration of the Japanese traditional water-based woodblock printmaking. Viewers are encouraged to ask questions during the demonstration! 

View the YouTube recording of our live demonstration here!

Visit for more information about exhibitions, workshops, and events!

Shinkendo of Birmingham - 1:00pm Facebook Live Demonstration

View the YouTube recording of the live demonstration here!

View the YouTube recording of the interview Q&A here!

Shinkendo is a style of traditional Japanese swordsmanship founded by Toshishiro Obata and headquartered in Los Angeles, California.  Shinkendo of Birmingham is an officially licensed branch school and has been in the Birmingham area since 1990.

Shinkendo is practiced with wooden swords (bokuto), imitation swords (iaito) and live blades (shinken).  Training consists of basic exercises (suburi ), solo forms (kata), quick-drawing techniques (battoho), partnered sparring (tachiuchi) and test cutting (tameshigiri).

We  hold classes every Saturday morning from 9:30-10:30 at the USA Martial Arts school located at 645 Shades Crest Road, Hoover, Alabama 35226.  The  chief instructor is Michael Philpott.  He has been training in Shinkendo since 1991.

For more information please visit our website at and our Facebook page at

Pictured: Live Demonstration at JASA Cherry Blossom Festival 2019

ACT Defense- Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu Japanese Martial Arts @ 3:30pm on Zoom

View the Zoom interview on our YouTube Channel here!

While most martial arts primarily focus on only one aspect of fighting, Bujinkan Martial Arts is an integrated system consisting of striking, grappling, groundfighting, and weapons skills so that you can efficiently defend yourself in a multitude of situations. It is made up of comprises nine separate ryuha, or schools, descended from historical samurai and ninjutsu schools. 

Join our interview with Shihan Michael Tucker to learn more about the Bujinkan, techniques, and a live Q&A!

Interested in training? Check out for more information and find them on YouTube!

"Our strong connection to our teachers in Japan as well as the greater Bujinkan Dojo community provides different opportunities and perspectives which will enhance your own training and skill development.

Our rotating fundamentals curriculum means that you can start training at any time. No need to worry about lack of experience or holding anyone else back. And our on-going study part of training means that there’s always something new to learn. Say goodbye to boredom!"

Video: Raw footage of unscripted drills from a Bujinkan class

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

While our Cherry Blossom Festival is held virtually this year, the Japanese Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is still open to guests! If you're not able to visit in person, check out these videos from BBG showcasing a virtual tour of the Japanese Garden and the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

We're so grateful for our partnership with the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and hope to see you all again there for future festivals!

View more information about the Botanical Gardens at!

Visit the Gardens

2612 Lane Park Road 

Birmingham, AL 35223

Parking and admission are free!

Garden Hours: 7:00am to 6:00pm Daily

Virtual Guests

AMOR - Alabama Multicultural Organization

Alabama Multicultural Organization (AMOR) is a public, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to promote inclusion and diversity in the State of Alabama through:

Arts • Music • Dance • Film • Theatre • Food • Sports

AMOR has participated in past Cherry Blossom Festivals with a booth promoting their Alabama Coffee Fest, encouraging coffee and conversation between cultures. 

Visit for more information!

Calligraphy - Demonstration with Shuko Harada

Shuko Harada has volunteered for our sakura matsuri for several years and written Japanese kanji calligraphy for guests. This year, she has volunteered with a virtual demonstration!

In this video, we interview Shuko-san about Japanese Calligraphy, tools and techniques, as well as her personal history with her calligraphy hobby.

Shuko-san demonstrates writing several Japanese kanji with seasonal Spring themes. We hope you enjoy this video presentation! 

View on our YouTube Channel here!

Robin Ray also visited the Japan-America Society of Alabama on August 11, 2018 for a special presentation on the lolita fashion and Japanese kawaii pop culture. A recording of this live event is available on our YouTube channel here!

Visit or follow on Instagram to view her products!

Hello Mermaid - Sakura themed crafts 

Robin Ray has been a special guest at our Cherry Blossom Festival for several years, showcasing her sakura-themed crafts and lolita fashion.


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Ikebana - Japanese Flower Arrangement Demonstration with Mikki Jinno 

Miki Jinno has volunteered for our sakura matsuri for several years and demonstrated a variety of Japanese flower arrangements. This year, she has volunteered with a virtual demonstration!

View our interview with Miki Jinno about the history of ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging. Miki-san teaches us about the history of ikebana and how people engage in the hobby in Japan.

She also demonstrates three flower arrangements for us, showcasing a variety of seasonal themes with designs that range from traditional to modern. 

You'll also learn some helpful tips on how to start arranging flowers at home! 

View on our YouTube channel here!

Mark Jackson, Honorary Consul General of Japan - Zoom Interview

Join us for a special YouTube interview with Mark Jackson, Alabama's Honorary Consul General of Japan.

We discuss the Japan-Alabama relationship from an economic and cultural perspective, the role of an Honorary Consul General, Japanese Gardens throughout the state, and several of Mr. Jackson's personal stories about his experiences with grassroots Japan-Alabama relationships.

View on our YouTube channel here!

Miss Iwate, Japanese Friendship Doll - Interview with Mary Beth Newbill at the Birmingham Public Library

Learn about Birmingham's very own Japanese friendship doll, Miss Iwate! Mary Beth Newbill from the Birmingham Public Library provides a detailed history of Miss Iwate, her creation, and her journey to Birmingham, as well as an explanation of what Japanese friendship dolls mean to the US-Japan relationship.

If you'd like to see Miss Iwate in person, you can make an appointment to view her at the Birmingham Public Library, open Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm.

Visit for more information about the library!

View on our YouTube channel here!

Tea Ceremony - Chado Urasenke Tankokai Birmingham Association

Pictured: Toshin-an at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Toshin-an 燈心庵 - toshin 燈心: light and heartan : hut or retreat

The Chado Urasenke Tankokai Birmingham Association explores the art of chado (茶道), Japanese tea ceremony. The following information an excerpt from To contact the group, call Soritsu Asano at (205) 218-0821. See below for a list of videos from the Urasenke World Chado Relay with more information and views of the tea house!

Drawn together by diverse interests in Japanese culture, a group of people gathered at Toshin-an teahouse in Birmingham, AL., in 1999 to study chado the "way of tea", established by the great 16th century tea master, Rikyu.

The group officially became the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Birmingham Association in 2001. The inauguration ceremony in April, 2001 was presided over by Hisashi Yamada, then director of Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York.

The association is intrinsically tied to the tea house, which is located in the Japanese Gardens at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. 

The name Toshin-an was given by Matsumoto Daien, the abbot of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The suffix "an" is a hut or a retreat. "Toshin" literally means "light and heart", a homonym to the wick of a lantern. Thus, the name Toshin-an conveys a deep wish that people who get together in this hut light the wick of each other's heart.

Dr. Alan Atkinson, then a member of the art faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was the first president of this small chado group. In his words,

The garden path, the hut,
The host and the guest...
All are whipped together
In the tea and are without distinction


Toshin-an is a teahouse that was designed and built by Mr. Kazunori Tago of Maebashi, Japan, who is an eighth generation Miyadaiku (temple and shrine builder). Toshin-an is an example of a 16th century Soan style teahouse, made completely from materials brought from Japan and built using only traditional tools and techniques. The construction was completed in 1994. An adjacent waiting hut, or soto machiai, was also designed and built by Mr. Tago and dedicated in honor of Eva Woodin Gambrell. The materials were donated by the citizens of Maebashi. Financial support was provided by the Shades Valley Council of Garden Clubs and Gardens of Inverness.

Together, the kanji script conveys the sincere sentiment that those who gather in this hut are able to light the wick (of understanding) in each other's hearts.

Toshin-an is part of a 7.5 acre site that comprises the Japanese Gardens, which are contained within the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. It is part of an interwoven collection of gardens built in Japanese style. Members of the Japanese Garden Society of Alabama assist with maintenance of the teahouse and participate in cultural and educational programming.

Mr. Tago revisited the teahouse in 2009 to participate in the 15th anniversary of the installation of Toshin-an. The Urasenke Birmingham Association had the special privilege of serving tea to Mr. Tago and his guests on this occasion.

View a special series of videos on Facebook from the Urasenke World Chado Relay below!

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4
Video 5
Video 6
Video 7
Video 8

University of Alabama Interview with Dr. Koji Arizumi

Read our interview with Dr. Koji Arizumi. Dr. Arizumi teaches Japanese and Japanese literature at the University of Alabama. He is also the head of the Critical Languages Center at UA.

We discuss different topics such as different resources available within and outside of UA, ways to engage in Japanese culture, and more.

Click here to download the text interview!

Washoku 和食 - Japanese Cuisine with Yoko Minami

Alabama JOI Coordinator (Japan Outreach Initiative) Yoko Minami shares with us a special presentation on washoku, Japanese cuisine.

Thank you, Minami-san, for sharing this video with us for JASA's 2021 Virtual Cherry Blossom Festival!

View the video on our YouTube Channel here.

Guest Interviews

Please enjoy the following text interviews with partners from Japanese departments at several Alabama universities. These interviews were conducted by Kirstin Burdette (UAB '21) as part of our JASA Internship Program. Please click the heading of each interview to view the PDF. 

Interview with Dr. Koji Arizumi from the University of Alabama

Read our interview with Dr. Koji Arizumi. Dr. Arizumi teaches Japanese and Japanese literature at the University of Alabama. He is also the head of the Critical Languages Center at UA. We discuss different topics such as different resources available within and outside of UA, ways to engage in Japanese culture, and more.

Interview with Dr. Yumi Takamiya from the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Read our interview with with Dr. Yumi Takamiya. Dr. Takamiya teaches Japanese as a foreign language at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). We discuss different topics such as resources available for those interested in the Japanese language and Japanese culture, the Japanese program at UAB, and more.

Interview with Makoto West from the University of South Alabama

Read our interview with Makoto West from the University of South Alabama (USA). Makoto West teaches Japanese for the Lesser Taught Languages program at USA. We discuss recommendations for resources at the university as well as outside of the university, teaching style, and more!


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Vestavia Hills, AL 35216

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