One hundred years ago this year, Japan gifted the United States with 3,000 cherry trees, which have flourished in Washington D.C. throughout the years. Los Angeles may not have a lot of cherry trees to boast of, but spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming and we’re ready to celebrate. This year, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACC) is launching its first ever LA Bloom springtime festival starting this Saturday. The nine-day festival was inspired by a painting of a 16th century Japanese fair where the community is bound by simple shared activities such as “Hanami” or flower viewing.
LA Bloom includes the usual festivities: jazz nights, music, dancing and happy hours. But what really caught my eye was JACC’s promise to transform Isamu Noguchi Plaza into an eco-artspace, which comprise of a massive zen garden using five million pebbles (as opposed to LACMA’s one massive rock) and a mural of cherry blossoms. Its a bold claim, but one that has a deeper, more contemplative meaning than simply competition, according to JACC’s Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka:
“The Japanese have take a different approach to how they view landscape. The micro/macro cosmic world of trees and rocks plays a great role in a space. One can hear the sounds of the ocean from the pebbles and stones of a dry garden. Rice cultivation from planting to the harvest is also part of celebration and festivities during the season. The Shinto religion believes in God of mountains and rivers. The Buddhist religion believe in our harmonious ties with nature. I have created a sacred space where man meets nature.”
Walk over to the James Irvine Japanese Garden to see a modern spin to the traditional art of Japanese flower arrangement. Ikebana artist Yokou Kitajima and musician Yuval Ron collaborate on a large-scale, sculptural and soundworks installation marked by temporary landscape installations marking east, north, south and west.
Though the springtime festival is inherently joyful, Kosaka’s installation (curated with the help of landscape architect and artist, Calvin Abe of AHBE) asks visitors to drink in the moment before them fully, with an understanding that not everything lasts. “Like the cherry blossom, temporariness of the garden and flower arrangements is representative of experiences in our own lives,” says Kosaka, evidently a very contemplative man, “Attachments to the permanency of our emotions and tangible belongings are appetite to our own ego and can create suffering. The installation is not to tell the viewer who they are, but help them understand themselves a bit better.”
The Zen garden is open to everyone. Walk in after the opening night performance is done, rake a few pebbles for yourself and see where you get. “I hope [visitors] have a bit more insight into who they are within this delicate and temperate life we’ve all been given,” says Kosaka. A noble pursuit in the middle of so much revelry.
LA Bloom runs from April 27 to May 5 with events happening every night. Check out the event schedule for full details.