HomeJapanese AmericanTemple hosts 6th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in New Jersey

Temple hosts 6th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in New Jersey

In a picturesque area of farmland in Cumberland County, New Jersey the Seabrook Buddhist Temple held its sixth annual cherry blossom festival.

Although the trees were in full bloom last week, the festival was more than just about the blooms itself, but it was the message of “renewal,” the end of the winter season and the beginning of life, which is important in the Buddhist faith.

The cherry blossom festival had traditional Japanese dance, Taiko drumming, music and a karate demonstration. All those that felt brave enough, were invited to dance with the performers.

About a hundred people and including children attended. Arts and crafts activities entertained children and there were food and items for sale. There was also a silent auction to support the temple and the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center nearby. 

There are many other cherry blossoms in the surrounding area, but none probably as special as the ones at Seabrook. Coming to the festival is a proud reminder of the efforts of Julie Yamasaki’s grandfather that planted over ten cherry blossom trees, Julie told AsAmnews. The trees grace the side of the road just prior to entrance to what was once Seabrook Farm and is where the temple still remains.

Julie attended the festival with her 91 year old mother, Alice. Even in her old age, she was a young woman at heart dancing during the festival and not missing a beat.

Seabrook Farm was once the largest supplier of canned and frozen vegetables. During the World War II labor shortage at the farm, interned Japanese Americans were given the opportunity to work freely at Seabrook.

During the war, Japanese Americans were removed from their homes by Executive Order 9066, because the government felt the Japanese Americans were a threat to national security. The executive order was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Working at the farm gave the Japanese Americans a sense of hope and to earn a living. 

Larry Ericksen, the executive director of the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center told AsAmNews why the cultural center was important it. “Celebrates the diaspora of the community. There were 25 different groups of people that worked on the farm and one of the largest groups was the Japanese Americans,” he said. The museum is open Mondays through Thursdays.

Julie had great memories growing up on the farm. “I had such a good childhood. It was so diverse. We had the swimming pool, so the kids came over to our house, she told AsAmNews. Julie’s maternal grandparents and her mother Alice were interned at Tule Lake prior to living and working at Seabrook Farms. Julie’s paternal grandparents were interned at Manzanar. 

Alice, who now lives between two of her daughters’ homes in the area, came to Seabrook in the 7th grade and attended school on the farm. In her adult life she held different jobs, including as a hairdresser.

AsAmNews asked Alice, “Why was it so important for you to be here at the cherry blossom festival? She replied, “It’s my home, my second home. I miss it.”

We also asked her, “What is the most memorable moment here at Seabrook?”  “I met my husband here!,” Alice chuckled.

The next event at Seabrook Buddhist Temple will be on July 15, the Obon festival that honors deceased ancestors.

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