Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival

Opening Ceremony and festival highlight video.

The 2022 Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival took place on  Sunday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Horner Hall, located in the Hot Springs Convention Center at 134 Convention Boulevard. This family friendly event was free to attend, but some of the workshops did have a minimal fee.  

The festival began at 1:00 on the front patio of the Hot Springs Convention Center with the playing of the taiko drum by Dr. Kae Reed and a welcome from Consul-General Matsumoto Yoichi of the Japanese Consulate in Nashville, the Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward, as well as City of Hot Springs elected officials. Following the opening ceremony, an official announcement was made about the opening of Origami Sake, the first sake brewery in the state of Arkansas.  

Several featured performances took place on the main stage in Horner Hall – Dallas Kiyari Daiko, a six member traditional Japanese taiko drumming performance, traditional Japanese odori dance, a demonstration of the Japanese martial art, an anime costume contest sponsored by the Garland County Library, and the winners of the 2022 2022 Arkansas Cherry Blossom Haiku Contest were announced and the haikus read. 

 In addition to the above festival performances, a number of workshops and lectures were  available:

  • The Art of Sake was led by Hot Springs Sister City Foundation Board Vice Chair Corey Alderdice. Participants learned about sake history, how it is brewed, about brewing in the United States, and, if over 21, had the opportunity to taste premium sakes. Origami Sake’s Ben Bell was on hand and provided valuable contribution as well as some very special imported sakes. 
  • Japanese Gardening in Arkansas seminar was led by Jim Elmore who has spent years creating a breathtaking Japanese garden paradise on the shores of Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Jim shared photos, tips on what works and doesn’t work for our climate and answer questions.  
  • Jonathan Westmoreland of the Hot Springs Buddhist Society conducted the Zazen workshop to educate on the meditation technique rooted in Buddhism. The workshop will covered how meditation can improve wellbeing and the elements of Zen gardens. 
  • The final workshop, Obento, was led by Kiyoko Johnson demonstrated how to create a delicious and beautiful bento, a Japanese lunch box.

A large exhibit of kimonos and festival wear was on display in the Grand Lobby in addition to exhibits of lacquerware, Japanese toys, tea sets and even a large Girls Day display in Horner Hall. The festival also included a variety of traditional Japanese carnival games, face painting, anime costume contest, a Japanese store to shop for souvenirs, and fun photo backdrop opportunities. The Sister City Youth Art exhibition debuted at the festival before moving to the library for the remainder of April. 

The Arkansas Cherry Blossom was sponsored by Hot Springs National Park Sister City Foundation in partnership with Visit Hot Springs. 

Images are few highlights from the 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.

Haiku Competition Winners Featured at Festival

The Hot Springs Sister City Program, in partnership with the Arkansas Haiku Society, presented the First Annual Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Competition as a part of Arkansas Cherry Blossom Festival. The winners of the contest and several selected haiku were read 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. These short poems aim to leave the reader with a strong feeling or impression.