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Experience Japanese culture through Tuscaloosa's Sakura Festival this weekend


Tuscaloosa locals will be able to enjoy Japanese traditions and cultures this weekend. The 37th annual Sakura Festival aims to bring Japanese culture to life in Tuscaloosa by providing students and locals an opportunity to learn more about traditions and culture from across the world.

Courtesy of UA's Capstone International Center

The festival’s name “Sakura” is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom" and aims to celebrate the spring season. The theme for this year’s festival is “renew” translated into Japanese as “mirai wo hiraku”.

Courtesy of UA's Capstone International Center

Kimberly Sennett is an admin specialist for the Capstone International Center at The University of Alabama. She said events like the Sakura Festival are important to communities like Tuscaloosa and a great opportunity to learn about international culture. “Since we’re in a college town, we have a lot of Japanese students who will be there,” Sennett said. “So, they’ll get to interact with the local community, and the local community will get to interact with people from the other side of the world.”

The festival will have various activities to immerse attendees in Japanese culture. Sennett said this will help locals get a better understanding and appreciation for the traditions and meaning behind them. “We’ll have little tables set up with activities like origami... having your name written in Japanese... kids can fish for little toys," she explained. "In Japanese festivals, there’s always activities for kids, so we’re going to try and incorporate some of those traditional activities in our event this weekend.”

Some of the other activities are a haiku contest and papermaking. Sennett said the festival will include other ways of encouraging audience participation throughout the event. “This year, we’re actually going to have some demonstrations on stage that show a little bit of Japanese culture and try and get the audience involved," she said. "These demonstrations include traditional dances, a tea ceremony and taiko drums to conclude the event."

The Sakura Festival will take place this Saturday, March 25, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tuscaloosa River Market.

Alex Pfenenger is a student intern in the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. He is a senior at the University of Alabama studying Creative Media. He has a passion for creating audio content, which lead him to podcasting and radio work. In his free time, Alex enjoys watching sports, listening to music, and serving at the local church.
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