DC's cherry blossom season is the perfect time to celebrate the pink-and-white blooms and learn about Japan and Japanese culture. Feeling inspired to plan your own Japan-inspired adventure? From cooking classes, sake, art and performances, bonsai and more, you can still get up close and personal with Japan even if you're not able to hop on a plane and travel there.
Check out our recommendations for ways to elevate this spring's cherry blossom viewing and experience Japanese culture right here in DC!
See where the first cherry trees were planted as a friendship gift from Japan
In a ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of the 2,000 cherry trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. These two trees still stand, marked by a plaque near the Japanese lantern which is lighted each year during the festival.
Visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
Have you ever been to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum? Did you even know there was one in DC?! Yep, there is and it's really cool--some of the trees are more than 400 years old. The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is located at the National Arboretum, and supported by the National Bonsai Foundation. The museum is home to dozens of Japanese and American grown bonsai, complete with a Japanese stroll garden and exhibits of traditional Japanese homes. Of special interest is the Yamaki Pine, the oldest of the Japanese bonsai in the museum, and a tree that survived the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
Honor Japanese Americans’ Experiences in World War II
The National Japanese American Memorial honors both those Japanese Americans who gave their lives during World War II, and those who were interned by the US government. Take time to read about the symbolism in each part of the site before visiting to fully appreciate the Memorial.
Take an at-home Japanese cooking class
Get off Uber Eats and level up those cooking skills by adding some Japanese food to your meal rotation. Embark and a culinary journey to Japan with Japanese cooking classes at home with the Japan-America Society of Washington and the local chefs at Cozymeal. Learn traditional dishes or contemporary cuisine. You can book virtual classes or in-person experiences as private events.
Check out Japanese Information and Culture Center events
JICC, the cultural section of the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC, hosts events throughout the year to promote better understanding of Japanese culture. Recent JICC events have included origami nights, shodo calligraphy demonstrations, and painting and haiku competitions. The JICC runs two calendars: a JICC events calendar, and a very thorough DC-area events calendar, both of which are regularly updated with Japanese cultural events around the area.
Visit the Japanese Garden at the Hillwood Estate
Heiress Marjorie Post’s estate features a non-traditional Japanese garden with/ well-placed stone lanterns, pagodas, symbolic animals, and statues with storied significance populate the various niches. Many stone figures reinforce the Japanese atmosphere in this garden.
Enjoy art, films, and music at the National Museum of Asian Art
The National Museum of Asian Art hosts the Smithsonian Institution’s Japanese Art collections which showcase four millennia of Japanese history. The museum features not just art, but also regularly shows Japanese films and performances, featuring not just classical movies and music, but also contemporary Japanese pop culture. The museum is currently closed but has many digital offerings to enjoy.
Shop for Japanese foods at Hana Japanese Market
Hana Japanese Market (2004 17th St NW), an understated, overstuffed treasure trove of (mostly) Japanese provisions, has been quietly minding its own business on the corner of 17th and U since 2009, when husband and wife Yoshio and Ikuyo Tanabe decided to augment the travel agency they were running out of the space with a grocery. The sheer number of products the Tanabes have managed to pack into a space not much larger than an average living room (not to mention the mesmerizing, cutesy packaging) could keep the curious shopper occupied for hours. Hana is the only store in the District that carries many of the items in stock, so it’s the place to go if you have a hankering for sea vegetables or are looking for anything in a flavor known as “sweet potato-kelp.”
Enjoy drinking some sake
Sake's popularity has finally found footing in the US. Sake today is where wine was in the 1980s—transitioning from a bourgeois beverage for special occasions to the mainstream. has grown over the years. Luckily, several DC restaurants have large sake selections, diverse picks and knowledgeable servers to help you experience sake to the fullest.
Curious? There's more!
Look up, down, and all around. Adventures can be found everywhere -- if you're curious enough to look. k for it