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.

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

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!