It’s springtime in D.C.! That means flowers blooming, allergies coming, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival! In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,020 cherry blossom trees to the City of Washington, D.C. They were planted around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park, and you can still see some of those first trees blooming every spring! So to help us celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival, I’ve pulled together the top seven ways to experience and enjoy Japanese culture in Washington, D.C.!
7. Visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
The world’s first ever bonsai museum is right here in D.C.! It’s located at the National Arboretum at 24th and R Streets in Northeast D.C. The Museum is open daily from 10:00am-4:00pm (closed most federal holidays), and admission is FREE! In the museum you’ll find all manner of bonsai trees, learn about their cultivation and see bonsai styles from all over the world—including Japan! Find all the details on their website.
Related: Your Guide to Solo Travel in Japan
6. Pay Your Respects to Japanese-American Patriots in World War II
This memorial is dedicated to the Japanese-Americans who showed patriotism to America, despite poor treatment during World War II. After Pearl Harbor, many Japanese-Americans and their families were sent to internment camps (not the same as concentration camps). Despite being forced from their homes and discriminated against, many of these Americans showed loyalty and patriotism, and this memorial remembers them. Find out more on the National Park Service website.
5. Have Cherry Blossom-inspired Afternoon Tea at the Willard Intercontinental
During the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April, you’ll see loads of cherry blossom-inspired dishes! But a pretty special one is the Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea at the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel. It’s a truly special, one-of-a-kind experience!
4. Attend the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
You’ll find performers from across the country and all the way from Japan at the Matsuri Japanese Street Festival! The festival takes place during the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year, and here you’ll find performances, crafts, and food from Japan. It’s put on each year by the Japanese-American Society of Washington, D.C., typically on the first Saturday of April.
Want more about Japan? Check out my dedicated Japan Page for my recommendations from living there!
3. Visit the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art
This is one of my favorite Smithsonian Museums because it covers all forms of art from all across Asia, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the “Far East.” You’ll find statues, paintings, silk screens, and more in this museum, but the pieces from Japan are my favorite. I might be a little biased, but that’s okay!
2. Eat Authentic Japanese Food
D.C. has some incredible Japanese food! Some of the best Japanese food I’ve had outside of Japan has been in D.C. Some of my favorites in the District include Sushi Aoi, Asia Nine, and Kaz Sushi Bistro, but I recommend trying them all! I have to give a special mention to Momo’s Sushi in Old Town Alexandria, just across the river, though. They have the best sushi I’ve ever had in the USA!
Keep eating: The Best Places to Eat in Downtown D.C.
1. Admire the Cherry Blossom Trees
This is certainly the most beautiful part of the Cherry Blossom Festival. You’ll find the trees all over the District and the greater D.C. area, but peak bloom only lasts a couple of days! But between the early bloomers and the late bloomers, you’ll be sure to see plenty of blossoms from March through April.
Don’t miss my Washington, D.C. Page for all my best tips, food recommendations, and favorite things to do in the District!
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