Cupertino experiences Japanese culture


Nisha Marino

Visitors pet Zen, whose owner is a member of the Shiba Inu Fanciers of Northern California. The group brings their dogs to the festival every year.

Toyokawa, Japan is 5,312 miles away from Cupertino, Calif. But from April 28 to April 29 of this year, Cupertino had the opportunity to experience the culture of its sister city.

Cupertino has several sister cities that encourage the merging of cultures. Its sisterhood with Toyokawa started the annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the Japanese culture. This year was the 35th anniversary of the festival.

The festival gives the community an opportunity to come together. This year, it included several tables for which visitors can learn more about the Japanese culture. Furthermore, within the cultural exhibit section, visitors could not only learn how to paint and do traditional Japanese calligraphy, but they could also view demonstrations of traditional dances and displays of Ikebana and bonsai.

“Bonsai is very relaxing, and I’m very passionate about it,” John Thompson, one of the bonsai artists, said. “Overall, this festival gives people a little taste of various aspects of Japanese culture, which is why I love it.”

Another Japanese art represented was traditional embroidery, which began as a way of decorating kimonos but has since transformed due to the decrease in demand.

“There’s a beauty in the different ways you can use the threads to give a different appearance,” Lelani Chuck, an embroiderer, said. “The light reflects off the silk and gives an appearance of shading, which is really why I love doing this.”

Outside, the Akita Preservation Society and the Shiba Inu Fanciers of Northern California brought their dogs for visitors to learn about and pet. Both Akitas and Shiba Inus are Japanese dog breeds.

“The Society is here to tell people that these dogs are very cute, but they also need work and attention,” one member of the Akita Preservation Society, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. “It takes a lot of effort to keep them trained so that they’re safe to themselves and other animals.”

In addition to Japanese culture stands, the festival also included more locally-based tables for the community to view, as the purpose of the festival was to both educate others about Japanese culture and to bring the community together.

“I was stationed in Okinawa, which was my first opportunity to see bonsai up close,” Thompson said. “I really got to appreciate it and the culture that came with it.”