Cherry Blossom Festival

Japanese dancers perform the Okinawa Miyagi Honryu Dance at the Peace Plaza Stage in Japantown.
Japanese dancers perform the Okinawa Miyagi Honryu Dance at the Peace Plaza Stage in Japantown.

Hanami, better known in English as the Cherry Blossom Festival, is a Japanese tradition of welcoming spring that embodies the beauty of nature.

Many people come to see the sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom and gather together for food, drinks and entertainment all underneath the blossoming flowers.

This Japanese festival is celebrated in the United States as well. In California, there are many locations that hold an annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but the biggest and most famous one is in San Francisco’s Japantown.

This year marked the 50th annual Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown plaza. This festival is a four day event held on Saturday and Sunday for two consecutive weeks, beginning on April 8 and ending on April 16.

Each year, over 200,000 people attend this celebration that showcases the color and grace of Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese-American Community in the Bay Area.

The festival’s website provides an event schedule for all of the festivities, varying from dance, martial arts, pop culture performances and tea ceremonies. If you are planning to attend the festival next year, choose the weekend wisely because all the events are different for each day.

Besides the performances that could be watched on many different stages scattered around the area, there were also a lot of interactive activities, such as classrooms to learn Japanese calligraphy, how to play Japanese card games and the showing of Japanese films such as Sailor Moon.

Crowds made up of people from many different ethnicities gathered in the Japantown plaza to appreciate and be a part of celebrating Japanese culture. Many people dressed up in a Harajuku type of fashion with gothic lolita type dresses and pastel colored wigs.

Anime fans cosplayed during the festival, walking around dressed up as their favorite Japanese cartoon characters. Some cosplayers went all out by bringing props, posing and even saying phrases by their animated characters.

Excluding all of the restaurants and stores inside the Japantown plaza and Japantown in general, there are still many more good eats and booths to shop at that are unique to the festival.

Since the streets are blocked off for the Cherry Blossom Festival parade, the food booths and food trucks line up along the sidewalks.  There are also booths selling Japanese artwork, clothes and trinkets.

The San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival is a great way to dive into the Japanese culture and spend time with good company, all in one place.