2013 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival: A Cultural Feast
San Francisco, CA – San Francisco’s colorful Japanese quarter will burst into full bloom on the weekends of April 13-14 and 20-21, 2013, when members of Northern California’s Japanese American community gather to present their 46th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Anyone with a yen to experience a bit of Japan won’t want to miss this wonderfully vivid and varied cultural feast, which celebrates the rich heritage of Japanese Americans. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is said to be the second largest festival outside of Washington, D.C. to celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms and held at the oldest of three remaining Japantowns in the United States.
The five-acre Japan Center, at Post and Buchanan Streets, and the adjacent blocks of Japantown will be filled with exquisitely costumed performers and will echo with thunderous rhythms of huge taiko drums, ethereal strains of koto music, crackling of boards being splintered by martial artists, and the gentle sounds of tea ceremonies. And, wafting through and above this cultural banquet will be the delicious aromas emanating from the Festival’s community-sponsored food bazaar.
Hundreds of Japanese and Japanese American performers and behind-the-scenes coordinators will take part in the celebration along with scores of participants who will be coming from Japan to join in staging the exhibits, demonstrations, and entertainments. Classical and folk dancers will perform both weekends. Experts in karate, kendo (a style of fencing with bamboo swords), aikido, and judo will demonstrate their skills, and collectors of samurai swords and armor will display their treasures.
There will be exhibits and demonstrations of ikebana (flower arranging), sumi-e (brush/ink painting), calligraphy, bonsai (tree dwarfing), origami, and doll-making. Also on the agenda are an arts and crafts fair featuring works with a Japanese theme, as well as activities planned especially for youngsters. Traditional Japanese music will fill the air at recitals spotlighting koto (harp-like instruments), shakuhachi (bamboo flutes), and shamisen (similar to a three-string banjo). There will be taiko and karaoke concerts, too, plus performances by several of the Bay Area’s most popular bands, which will add a contemporary “East meets West” dimension.
A two-hour Japanese-style parade will bring the Festival to a dazzling close on Sunday afternoon, April 21. Colorfully costumed dancers and musicians by the hundreds, modern-day samurai, floats, ladies in exquisite kimonos, taiko drummers, and scores of young men and women carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) will take part in this unique procession which begins at City Hall, Polk and McAllister Streets, at 1 p.m. and winds its way along a fifteen block route to Japantown.
One of the highlights at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s Grand Parade will be the 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen and her court. For the past 46 years, the Queen and her court make their first public appearance at the parade along with many other groups that culminates in the Grand Taru Mikoshi at it is lifted onto the shoulders of 100 men and women through Japantown as it is joyously hoisted back and forth.
Throughout the Festival, the timeless significance of cherry blossoms (sakura) will be in mind. The blossoms, which stay on the trees for only a few days before the spring breezes carry them away, evoke the unsurpassed beauty of nature and the transience of life.
Everyone is invited to join in the festivities, which will be in full swing by 11 a.m. each day of the two-weekend celebration. Most events are free.
As of this press announcement, performances and events are tentative until the schedule is finalized in March. A complete schedule may be obtained by visiting our web site at http://www.sfcherryblossom.org. For information, as the Festival draws near, you also can call (415) 563-2313.