The National Cherry Blossom Festival’s signature Opening Ceremony is an artistic celebration of the 1912 gift of trees from Tokyo to Washington, DC, and an annual tribute to the longstanding friendship between Japan and the United States. This unique, one-time-only performance featured special performances from acclaimed artists with ties to both countries.

A Look Back at the 2023 Opening Ceremony

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2023 Opening CeremoNY pERFORMERS

Anna Sato X Toshiyuki Sasaki

Anna Sato is a Shimauta singer from Amami Islands and Toshiyuki Sasaki is a drummer. They originally formed the unit just to perform for Rencontres de Chants Polyphoniques, a music festival held in Corsica (France) in 2016, but officially made a debut as a duo after that. Shimauta repertoire is traditionally accompanied by Chijin drumming. While Sato keeps the fundamental structure of Shimauta singing with Chijin playing, she is also accompanied by the sound of western style drumming by Sasaki and changes up her choice of musical instrument from Chijin to Sanshin (three string banjo-like instrument) or Amami Tategoto (vertical harp). By doing so, the duo creates a completely original groove and produces the traditional music that is relevant to the present audience. They had a successful concert in Paris in 2017. Since then, they have released three full-albums and five 7-inch singles together. Most recently, they released a limited-edition album only for Europe and keep expanding the field of activities tirelessly.

Travis Japan

Travis Japan is a formidable 7-member dance and performance pop group from Tokyo, named in honor of award-winning American choreographer Travis Payne (Michael Jackson’s This is It, Lady Gaga’s The Monster Ball Tour, etc.), who helped audition them in 2012. The group is managed by the legendary Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates, and their style is a captivating mix of modern, jazz, and hip hop.

In their native country, Travis Japan has headline numerous performances including their annual Japanesque stage show TORA JA -NINJAPAN-. In the fall of 2020 the group held their wildly successful Travis Japan LIVE 2020 ENTER 1234567 online, before going on to host their 12-city IMAGE NATION~Zenkoku tsuā shi chatte mo idesu ka!?~ national tour in the spring and summer of 2021.

The group has drawn acclaim for its captivating, syncopated dance moves and catchy pop music stylings, and in March of 2022 headed to Los Angeles. Their journey from “World of Dance” to “America’s Got Talent”, combined with their superb skills as performers, caught the attention of Capitol Records and UMG, and the decision was made to sign and release their music globally. Highly anticipated debut single “JUST DANCE!” surpassed 10 million video views and launched at No.5 on Billboard Global chart (excluding US), which made the group the first Japanese act to break into the top five with a debut single since the chart’s inception.

Mika Stoltzman

Mika Stoltzman, called “High-wire jazz marimbist… an amazing, energetic performer ready for major exposure.” (LA Times) was born in Amakusa Island, Kumamoto, Japan, and now resides in Boston. 

Mika released her album, Mitsue, in 1998, Marimba Phase, in 2003. 

In 2010 also released a live DVD, MARIMBA MADNESS (Big Round Records). CDMikarimba (Video Art Music, Japan).

In 2013 released If You Believe,in 2013(TeeGa music,Japan) with Steve Gadd.

In 2017,Mika and Richard Stoltzman recorded a duo album with producer Stephen Epstein, guest artist Chick Corea and BMOP(Boston Modern Orchestra). This CD Duo Cantando released by DENON label (Nippon Colombia,Japan and Savoy record,US). In 2019, Classical CD Palimpsest (AVIE Record) and Jazz CD Tapereba (Big Round) released.  In 2022, Jazz CD&LP Sprit of Chick Corea ( Disc Union) and Classical LP SOLO (Disc Union) released.   

Also, her arrangement and performance of “Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint” appears on Steve Reich’s album Triple Quartet (Nonesuch). She has also appeared on Richard Stoltzman’s album Goldberg Variations (BMG Japan) and Jo Hisaishi’s Asian X.T.C. (Universal Japan). 

Mika has performed 10 times at Carnegie Hall (Zankel & Weill),PASIC 2005&2007, Blue Note NY,Blue Note Tokyo,Cairo Jazz Festival, YOSHI’s CA and other Jazz club. On August 13th 2015, Mikarimba celebrated a sell-out concert at the Rockport Jazz Festival (MA) with Steve Gadd.

In addition to touring in 19 countries and 60 cities around the world. 

She premiered Marimba Concerto with the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra and Kumamoto Symphony Orchestra. She was also guest soloist in the Kracow Philharmonic in Poland, and Szombathey Symphony Orchestra in Hungary. 

In 2013, Mika’s guest performance of Chick Corea’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on Marimba (World Premiere) with Xalapa Symphony Orchestra in Mexico and Verona Italy. Also, Chick Corea’s Concerto recorded with Boston Modern Orchestra.  

Mika produced and performed the Amakusa Island Magic(International Music Festival)  2005-2008 and  “Kumamoto Red Music Festival” 2014 for celebrate her 50 years anniversary.

She has been performing actively with the duo “The Stoltzmans on Clarinet and Marimba” with Richard Stoltzman. They have been performing globally in New York, Boston, Austin, Buenos Aires, Beijing, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Germany and Japan. 


Miray Ito, violin
Benedict Kloeckner, cello

Ryuji Ueno Foundation presents PETÆL.  Award-winning, charismatic musicians Miray Ito, violin, and world-renowned Benedict Kloeckner, cello, bring their classical masterly to the main stage in a high-octane performance of classical masterpieces. The artists featured have worked with Dr. Ryuji Ueno on his research with the Delta Method, an analysis of music based on brain physiology.

The Ryuji Ueno Foundation is dedicated to supporting excellence in classical music, broadening its relevance to new audiences, and furthering innovation in the arts.  The foundation supports individual artists to develop and explore their talent and achieve their full potential through a number of programs.

Violinist Miray Ito made her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of twelve and a few months later was awarded first prize at the Kocian International Violin Competition in the Czech Republic. Miray has since amassed a number of prizes, including laureate of the Kloster Schöntal International Violin Competition, Young Artist of the Year by the Ruth Laredo Memorial Foundation, Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant, and the Joan Graham Award and Irene Kinsey Stare Award, both from the Tuesday Musicale of Detroit. She has performed as a soloist with orchestras, including the Sendai Philharmonic, Toledo Symphony, and Yamagata Symphony, and was a featured artist on NPR’s “From the Top” with Peter Dugan. Miray was accepted into The Juilliard School at sixteen and is currently finishing her studies with Li Lin. She plays a 1734 Pietro Guarneri violin on a generous loan from The Ryuji Ueno Foundation.

Cellist Benedict Kloeckner is one of the outstanding artists of his generation. He has won numerous competitions and awards, most recently the OPUS Klassik 2021. He performs worldwide as a soloist with renowned orchestras and works with renowned conductors. He appears in concert halls such as the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall New York, Kennedy Center Washington, and more. Kloeckner regularly collaborates with the great contemporary composers of our time. In 2018 he performed the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Double Concerto for 2 Cellos and Strings.  He plays an Italian Cello by Francesco Rugeri (Cremona, 1690), formerly played by Maurice Gendron, and a bow by Etienne Pajeot (Mirecourt, 1820).


Parking is limited in the District, especially during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s highly recommended that visitors use DC’s alternative transportation modes like Capital Bikeshare, DC Streetcar, Scooters, DC Circulator, Metrobus, and Metrorail to make the most of their experience.

 The show will be live-streamed on the Festival YouTube Channel.

Trigger Warning: Please be advised that this production may contain strobe lighting effects, sudden loud noises, and the use of a confetti cannon

 Bag Policy: The venue will only allow clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC tote bags no larger than 12″ x 6″ x 12″ and/or small clutch bags (4.5″x 6.5″)

Additional venue details are available on the Warner Theatre website.

You can still watch the 2023 Opening Ceremony livestream below, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great Festival content!



Parking is limited in the District, especially during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s highly recommended that visitors use DC’s alternative transportation modes like Capital Bikeshare, DC Streetcar, Scooters, DC Circulator, Metrobus, and Metrorail to make the most of their experience. Skip the traffic and parking by planning your trip with goDCgo’s Getting to the Blossoms Guide.


We recommend booking convenient and affordable parking in advance through SpotHero, the nation's leading parking reservations app.

To reserve your parking spot, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony SpotHero Parking Page and book a spot with rates up to 50% off drive-up.

Co-Presented with

Supporting Sponsor



Ryuji Ueno Foundation
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA) Inc.
MUFG Bank, Ltd.

Media Partner

7News & WJLA 24/7 News


Embassy Of Japan