This March, you won’t have to leave the island to get a taste of Japan. Last Fri (Mar 16), Gardens by the Bay launched their first ever Japanese festival Sakura Matsuri, or Cherry Blossom Festival, which will take over the Flower Dome all through Apr 8.
Contrary to how you would have to plan your visit to Japan around sakura season (typically late March to early April), there’s no such thing as a bad time to go here. For the Sakura Matsuri, 23 different varieties of sakura were flown in from Japan and Europe, to ensure that there would always be cherry blossoms flowering, albeit at different times, throughout the entirety of the festival.
One particular variety that is already in bloom is the Kohigan-zakura—characterized by multiple buds on a single tree. Japanese sakura consultant Satoshi Kokubun, who was invited to select the sakura varieties to bring into Singapore, personally drove to a nursery in a mountainous area in Japan to find and handpick the flower. Another variety blooming in the early part of the event is the Shidare-zakura, or weeping cherry tree from Kyoto, whose branches grow downwards in a melancholy manner.
This will be the first time in the world that 23 different varieties of sakura come together to bloom in one place. Kokubun, who has been working with the Gardens by the Bay team for the event since 2016, said everyone around him had told him it was “Mission Impossible” to make sakura blossom in a tropical climate like Singapore. As such, temperatures in the Flower Dome have been lowered and maintained at an optimal temperature of 19°C.
While Sakura Matsuri marks the third edition of Gardens by the Bay’s annual cherry blossom display, it’s the first time they’re throwing a full Japanese-themed festival of activities in conjunction. Along with the flowers, visitors can look forward to a Japanese-inspired landscape complete with sakura bonsai and lifelike dolls—dressed in traditional garb and posed against miniature scenes right out of Japan. From Mar 30, there will also be a specially curated Japanese fair of F&B booths, yukata rental, sake appreciation workshops, and educational booths about the different prefectures in Japan. Cultural performances ranging from Shinobue (Japanese flute) to Okinawan dance and music, to a Japanese tea ceremony demonstration in a tea house, will be available too, at specific times in the festival.
A performance by the Japanese Association of Singapore’s Folk Dance Club
Admission charges to the Flower Dome apply, but they’ll still be cheaper than a ticket to Tokyo.
Sakura Matsuri runs from Mar 16-Apr 8 at Gardens by the Bay, Flower Dome. More information here.