54th Sakura Matsuri Street Festival — D.C. 2014


The offi­cial brochure for the 54th Sakura Mat­suri Fes­ti­val of D.C.

Last week, I had the plea­sure of attend­ing the 54th Sakura Mat­suri Street Fes­ti­val in Wash­ing­ton D.C.! For those who don’t know, this is in con­junc­tion with the annual Cherry Blos­som Fes­ti­val that is held in D.C. every year and runs from 10:30AM to 6:30PM. And for a nom­i­nal fee of $10, you get entry into a street full of ven­dors, per­for­mances, cul­tural booths, and most impor­tantly, the go booth!


Though a bit blurry, you can get a sense of how crowded it was. Not for the claustrophobic!

Mak­ing your way through the crowd was a bit of a chal­lenge since peo­ple would ran­domly stop to look at things or be wait­ing in these long lines for food. So as you can expect, there were all sorts of ran­dom jams in the street. How­ever, once you make your way past the main inter­sec­tion, it didn’t take long before you found your­self before the go booth.


Here’s a shot of our booth from the main side.


Here’s a shot of the booth from the left side peer­ing into the booth.

I arrived a cou­ple hours late, but as you can see in the shots above, things were quite busy! Even though we had around 8–10 teach­ers, you can see that every­one is busy teach­ing. Def­i­nitely some­thing I was ecsta­tic to see as a go enthusiast.


Pic­tured: Myself (cen­ter), John (with the hat) and Justin Teng (red jacket)

The shot above is of me after I got set­tled and teach­ing my first cus­tomer of the day. As you can see on the board, we’re play­ing a game of first capture!


The brochure that we were hand­ing out.

Though we had quite a few brochures printed out (I think more than 200) and had a few pam­phlets, I was quite sur­prised that we had so many peo­ple ask­ing for more infor­ma­tion that we were run­ning out before 3:00PM had even came around. Def­i­nitely a les­son learned for next year!


Another shot of us busy at work teach­ing the never end­ing crowd of peo­ple look­ing to sit down and have a shot to learn themselves!

After I sat down to start teach­ing, I have to say that every­thing was mov­ing at such a fast pace. First, all the stu­dents I taught learned at a quick pace and grasped the game pretty quickly. Sec­ondly, there were no short­age of spec­ta­tors who were pay­ing close atten­tion to what was being taught so they could learn about it them­selves. And to my sur­prise and delight, every time a seat opened up, there was always some­one ready to sit down and try their hand at it.


Here’s a shot of me try­ing to switch between four dif­fer­ent simul­ta­ne­ous teach­ing games. For  the tech nerds, one of my cus­tomers had Google Glasses on! How awe­some is that?!

Even­tu­ally, things got so busy that I was simul­ta­ne­ously teach­ing around 2–3 peo­ple at a time on aver­age. To stream­line the process a bit, I fig­ured out that hav­ing every­one to focus on one board while I explained the rules worked out really well. And then when they had an idea what was going on, I would give them their own boards and stones and play simul games with all of them so that they were all equally engaged.


Here’s a shot of me in my 4 way simul teach­ing game. But as you notice in the back­ground, the streets are seri­ously packed and all the teach­ers are busy teaching.

All in all, the event was a huge suc­cess and I felt that a lot of peo­ple were able to be exposed to go and learn about it. The only real les­son learned from this event, how­ever, is that we def­i­nitely needed a  sur­plus of mar­ket­ing mate­r­ial. It would have def­i­nitely been nice if we could have handed out more brochures more aggres­sively with­out wor­ry­ing about our inventory.

Finally, the thing that was really great to see what that a major­ity of the peo­ple I taught asked me for more infor­ma­tion (for which I promptly gave them my blog and email) and if we even had any go sets to pur­chase (which we unfor­tu­nately did not have and is some­thing I want to look into next year).

So for all those who have any Japan­ese cul­tural events in your local area, I def­i­nitely encour­age you all to try and setup a booth like we did. Because at the end of the day, if there was only one thing I learned from this event, it is that go has a real poten­tial to appeal to all types of peo­ple and can even­tu­ally become a house­hold sta­ple like chess or check­ers if we keep spread­ing the word with out­reach ini­tia­tives like this one.

Many thanks to John Goon for coor­di­nat­ing and set­ting up this event. Def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to it next year! 

  • http://truthandgo.blogspot.de/ Eye­catcher

    Very inter­est­ing pic­tures. Teach­ing GO is so fun & impor­tant to spread the game.

    • http://www.bengozen.com/ Ben

      Thanks! It cer­tainly is fun to teach go and very excit­ing to see so many peo­ple inter­ested in learn­ing about it.