By Brenda Velasquez, Asian Avenue magazine

Celebrating over 40 years of success, the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival took place June 22-23. Tents lined the street with a stage at the far side adjacent to which stood the Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple where visitors could view bonsai and flower arrangement exhibits or listen to cultural lectures.

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A creatively-choreographed Taiko drumming performance kicked off the festival followed by martial arts demonstrations, folk dancing and singing involving traditional instruments like the koto.

“This festival helps promote heritage,” explained Michelle Asakawa, a member of the planning committee and wife of Japanese-American photographer and festival emcee Glenn Asakawa.

“Helping to ensure that kids grow up with an understanding of where they come from; there’d be a big abyss, a disconnect [particularly between younger and older family generations] if they didn’t have that,” Asakawa continues. “So many of the kids like the anime and cosplay but don’t know about the traditional arts… so there’s a nice mix of modern and historical here.”

Fourteen-year old Brian Horiuchi has inherited essential Japanese values growing up in the Denver Buddhist Temple involving tradition, community and respect for elders, demonstrating these values through impeccable manners.

“Growing up in the temple has taught me a lot about respect: it has to be earned. And the elders are so grateful; the smiles on their faces when we help them, gives me such a great feeling inside.”

Half Japanese, half Spanish in descent, Horiuchi performs for Denver Taiko; he is a mentor for Junior Taiko and treasurer for the Young Buddhist Association, volunteering every year for the festival.

“I enjoy my fair share of anime, but I like all the old arts too,” he laughs. “This festival is my favorite time of the year.”

See more photos by Glenn Asakawa on Google Plus.