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Every year in April, Japanese residents of San Francisco hold the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in honor of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival that has been held in Japan for hundreds of years.  While Japan’s Sakura Matsuri is full of traditional dress, delicate foods, and paper lanterns, San Francisco’s festival showcases Japanese culture as it has developed in the west.

The main attraction is the parade, which marches from Civic Center through the center of San Francisco’s Japan Town.  Many of the groups in the parade are representatives of cultural centers for dance, music, language, and art.  Others are city service people, like the Asian Firefighters Association.  Every group offers something unique to the parade, whether it be women in beautiful kimono, dancers floating to traditional music, or the chance to see a fire truck up close – without the fire, of course.  Crowds line the streets, many dressed up in traditional Japanese clothing, Lolita dresses, or cosplay.  The spectators themselves turn into part of the show in this colorful event.

The festival hosts several stages, which hold entertainment like traditional dances, taiko drumming, and martial arts displays.  These beautiful arts are not to be missed!  Inside Japan Town’s shopping mall, stalls sell everything from t-shirts and custom sketches to video game characters made from Perler beads.  Check out the cutesy, nerdy, and yummy stores inside the mall, and make sure to pop by Daiso, a Japanese discount store that sells almost everything for $1.50.

If you like anime, Japanese culture, awesome food, or just taking a day out, make sure to head to San Francisco’s Cherry Blossom Festival next year!

Words and photos Tessa Murphy

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