Cherry Blossom Festival San Francisco - Everything You Need to Know

About the event

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event held in the Japan town of San Francisco. This is one of the only three existing Japantowns all over the USA. Every year about 220,000 thousand people visit and take part in this beautiful event. This is a celebration of Japanese culture and Japanese American relations and citizens. The event is free and open to the public. There are multiple local and global vendors and artists who would be present at the event showcasing their products and talents respectively. The two weekend-long festival is a celebration of the blossoming cherry blossoms and the arrival of spring into San Francisco. There are multiple cultural programs that take place in the event as well.

Cherry blossom festival
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The highlights of the festival are the parade and the queen program. The parade starts moving from the Civic Centre at 1:00 pm, then moves to the Pok and Polk streets and finally ends at the Post and Fillmore streets of Japan town. The parade has beautiful floats of butterflies and dance performances all the way through as well. The Taiko Dojo and the boy scouts of the Asian communities keep the parade lively with their floats and upbeat sounds of the Taiko. The crowned queen of the year and her court strut through the parade as well.

Parade
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The queen program is dedicated to mentoring and developing leadership skills in young women. They display their abilities to represent their community through various rounds of interviews and creative expressions following which the committee selects a queen and her court.

Cultural Events

1. Bonsai:

Bonsai
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The bonsai display and exhibition is a fruit of the hard work of multiple bonsai and suiseki clubs all over the state including Marin Bonsai Club, Bonsai Society of San Francisco, Yamato Bonsai Kai and California Suiseki Society. It is also an apt representation of the majestic beauties of nature captured in miniature form.

2. Chanoyu:

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Literally means hot water for tea. It is one of the most refined traditions in Japanese culture. Tea making has been a social and medicinal ceremony in Japan for centuries now, and you get to catch a glimpse of this at the festival. The guests are in awe at the simple flower decoration, the elegant utensils serving the tea and the host’s grace. The tradition is also represented in multiple other walks of Japanese lifelike landscape gardening, architecture, ceramics and other art forms. The main part of the ceremony isn’t the drinking of the tea but the elevation of simple, tranquil and serene beauty and the Japanese principles of Zen.

3. Dance:

Dance
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Almost every district in Japan has its own unique history and folklores that it communicates through the medium of their dance. The people have dances for every occasion and profession like fishing, rice planting, sailing and shoe making as well. Dancing keeps the spirit of the people alive, even among the mundane works in their everyday life. The Nihon Buyo is a theatrical music drama style of performance taken from the Kabuki tradition. The singers are also accompanied by musicians playing the shamisen, tsuzumi and the fue. The Minyo is a folk dance handed down for generations which depicts the joy of a good harvest.

4. Ikebana:

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This traditional art was placed in the tokonoma alcove of the Japanese homes, but now it is an art form practised all over the world. It is an arrangement of foliage and flowers in their natural form but trimmed to perfection by the artists and arranged in triangular forms representing heaven, earth and humans. There are many rules and guidelines to this flower arrangement, and Ikebana is no exception to all other forms of Japanese art, it is intricate, delicate and elegant.

5. Japanese doll making:

Dolls
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There are two types of dolls, the washi ningyo dolls and the mataro kikemi dolls. The first kind is made of paper and is made of special washi paper or Japanese cotton. It is very time consuming to perfect these dolls, and they are intricately designed as well. It can take about two to three hours to make one simple doll. Most of these dolls are designed by students and teachers, taking inspiration from Japanese customs and traditions. The second kind is made of wood with intricate grooves and edges carved on them. They were initially put together with rice glue, and they represent the beauty of the Heian period of Japanese history. The style of making these dolls over time changed from an abstract to a more realistic form.

6. Japanese music:

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The festival puts on display the various musical instruments of the Japanese culture. From the Japanese drum to the flute to the harp to the three-stringed shamisen, come witness the love and the passion the musicians' showcase for their skill. 

7. Martial arts:

Karate
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Martial arts are the ways and controls of the mind, body and the soul. You can come to the Peace plaza and watch a variety of martial artists performing in various styles like kendo, judo and karate. Come witness the beauty and poise of the art live, something you would’ve only seen in movies.

8. Origami:

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The origami exhibition and demonstration is an integral part of the festival. The word Origami literally means a piece of paper and is an art form that dates back to almost 400 years. Origami is said to have been discovered by the Japanese centuries back. A simple piece of origami can be made in less than 10 steps, but complex ones can go up to 100 steps, and only a few are able to master it. The art has been a part of the demonstration and display of the festival since its inception.

9. Shodo:

Shodo
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The shodo art and calligraphy was developed almost back in the 5th century. It is the art of Japanese calligraphy and is practised with the use of traditional bamboo brushes and ink. The art lies in the flow, harmony and balance of the writing. The way in which the lines are drawn and placed in the beginning and end of every letter is important in maintaining harmony and balance. You can stop by the festival and get your name and favourite word written on a fan with the Japanese script.

Save the Dates

The festival is scheduled to be held on the following two weekends of April in 2021:

  • April 10-11 2021
  • April 17-18 2021

Where is Japantown?

Japan town
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The festival takes place in Japan town. It is in between Laguna Street and Filmore Street. To the south, the town is bordered by  Geary Boulevard. To spot the venue, keep your eyes open for the red banners with cherry blossoms on them and the Peace Pagoda which is at the Japan Centre.

Travel

It is highly recommended that visitors take public transport as the parking spots at the venue are limited. 

Muni

Muni has bus stops a couple of blocks away from Japantown. You can take one from Fisherman’s Wharf or Union square or marina or Dogpatch districts. You could then get off at Laguna, Buchanan or Fillmore stop.

Muni
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You could also take a BART or a Caltrain to get to the location.

Cab share

If you are using City care share or Getaround or Scoot services, there will be parking spots available at the location. 

Taxi

There is a drop off zone designated for the cabs and taxis. You can ask your driver to drop you off on Geary Blvd.

Bicycle

Plan your bicycle trip using google or apple maps

Cycles
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You can park  at the following Japantown garages:
Main Garage: 20 Secured Spaces, 20 Rack Spaces
Fillmore Street Annex Garage: 8 Rack Space 

For further guidance, you could use google maps or apple maps that will guide you based on the traffic on the day of the event

This post was published by Devarchita Sen

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