Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival

Experience Japan without leaving the state!!!

The Hot Springs National Park Sister City Foundation hosted the annual Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival, a celebration of Japanese culture, on Sunday, April 2. The event was held at Hot Springs Convention Center at 134 Convention Boulevard. Originally called the Hot Springs Cherry Blossom Festival, this event was renamed in 2022 to the Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival as it attracted participants from across the state. This sixth annual family-friendly event was free to attend and had something for all ages.

The festival featured cultural demonstrations, exhibits, and musical performances including taiko drums, koto and dance, a variety of traditional Japanese carnival games as well as an anime cosplay contest. Prizes for the Second Annual Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku competition were awarded with winners invited to read their haiku at the event.

The 2024 festival is scheduled for March 3. If you are interested in volunteering email director@hotspringssistercity.org.

Workshops & Lectures

The Festival will included seven cultural workshops and experiences, in addition to a wide range of performances, exhibits and even an opportunity to shop for Japanese items. Workshops included:

  • The Sake Experience – Learn about the history, culture and craft of brewing fine sake and, for participants who are over 21 one years of age, have the opportunity to be one of the first to taste sake crafted in Hot Springs, Arkansas at Origami Sake! Led by sake professionals with decades of experience in the drinks industry, Ben Bell, Origami Sake’s Vice President and Justin Potts, Origami’s Director of Brewing Relations educate about sake and Hot Springs’s role in making Arkansas the “Napa Valley of the sake industry.”
  • Ikebana, the Japanese art form of flower arranging, is subtle and expressive, but not simple. In this workshop participants will learn about the over 600 year history and different types of ikebana. This workshop is led by Adrianne Kahn, who has studied Ikebana Sogetsu School since 2005 and is a member of the Dallas Sogetsu, Dallas Ikebana International and Fort Worth Ikebana International, and has attended both of the last two North American Regional Conferences. Ms. Khan leads you as you make your own live ikebana floral arrangement to take home.
  • What is Manga? Manga is a term used to refer to Japanese comics and cartooning. This lecture, led by Arkansas Tech University professor Dr. Kae Hashimoto Reed, will explore manga and its place in Japanese history and pop culture. T
  • Hanamochi – ‘Hana’ means flower and ‘mochi’ means rice cake. In the colder regions of Japan began a tradition of making “flowers” with branches and mochi as there was too much snow on the ground to grow flowers. Come make your own hanamochi to take home and enjoy. This workshop is led by Dr. Kae Hashimoto Reed and is open to all ages, however, children under the age of 12 must have an adult in attendance.
  • Yukata Experience -Yukata, Japan’s summertime kimono, is brightly colored and worn on casual occasions such as festivals and onsen. Learn about the differences in kimono and yukata as well as how to wear yukata from licensed kimono dresser, founder of New York Kimono Academy, and Kyoto native, Masae Satouchi.
  • The Zen of Cherry Blossoms – The short but brilliant life of the cherry blossom has long been seen as a metaphor for themes of impermanence and transience practiced in Zen Buddhism in Japan. The Hot Springs Buddhist society presents a lecture discussing the relationship between the cherry blossom and Buddhist practice. Participants will receive a singing bowl and instructed on how to use the bowl to bring them back to the present moment as a means of easing the anxiety and suffering we experience in our daily lives.
  • Pre-Festival Mokuhanga Workshop on March 31 – Six of the cultural experiences will be held during the festival, but one of the workshops will take place in the days leading up to it, with the beautiful Mokuhanga prints displayed at the festival. Mokuhanga is the Japanese water based woodblock printmaking technique. The Mokuhanga printmaking opportunity will be led by artist David Warren on March 31 beginning at 10am and continuing until approximately 2pm on the Campus of National Park College in the Liberal Arts Building, Room 201. Participants will use traditional printing tools, and create a multi-color Mokuhanga print. David studied the traditional Japanese printmaking technique of Mokuhanga in Japan and will be sharing this experience in this workshop which is hosted by National Park Community College in partnership with Aitoh Specialty Paper. The class size is limited to 10 people with a fee of $25 per person. Participants should be 16 years of age or older. All materials and tools will be supplied thanks to Aitoh Specialty Paper Company.


Koto – Koto, the national instrument of Japan, is a plucked half-tube zither instrument. Popular since the earliest Japanese musical history, the koto remains part of modern-day music. Maika Yamaoka joins us from Japan to perform.

Kendo – At first glance you may think this is simple sword play. Upon further inspection, kendo is a martial art employing protective gear, a bamboo sword, and great physicality. Come watch this high energy demonstration by the Arkansas Kendo Club.

Odori – Traditional Japanese dancing is called odori and we are fortunate to have as our guest Masae Sotouchi, a Kyoto native, who will perform odori, traditional Japanese performance dance. Afterwards she will demonstrate bon odori, Japanese traditional festival dance. Join her in the dance!


Cosplay Contest

Presented by the Garland Counted Library

Join the Garland County Library staff and friends for the Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival Anime Cosplay Contest. Mr. Brett and friends will be there to judge the Cosplay Contest for the second year in a row!

The Cosplay Contest consists of 3 age groups: ages 0-12, ages 13-19, and ages 20+.

•Costumes must be family friendly and can be denied at organizer’s discretion.
•No real weapons are permitted, costume weapons will be checked

Check in at the Garland County Library booth when you arrive at the festival.


2023 Haiku Competition

The Hot Springs Sister City Program, in partnership with the Arkansas Haiku Society, presented the Second Annual Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Competition as a part of 2023 Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival. The winners of the contest were invited to read them at the event.

A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem made of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku often feature an image, or a pair of images, and capture the essence of a specific moment in time or  a way of looking at the physical world and seeing something deeper. The winning haiku will be featured during the the festival.

Below are some highlights from the 2022 festival!!!

Taiko Performance Featured at Cherry Blossom

The taiko drum group Dallas Kiyari Daiko was a highlight of The Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival

Since 1992, Dallas Kiyari Daiko has been performing traditional Japanese drumming, also known as “Taiko” or “Wadaiko,” in the metroplex. A symbol of communities, Taiko was originally used for ceremonies, festivals and traditional dance, but has evolved into a musical art known around the world for its deep, resonating beats, driving rhythms and powerful physical movements.

Opening Ceremony and festival highlight video.