The Japantown neighborhood comes to life in the spring when the cherry blossoms start to bloom. This is also when more than 200,000 people flock to Japantown for the annual San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival.
SF's Cherry Blossom Festival started in 1967. Since then, it's grown to one of the largest Cherry Blossom Festivals in the US.
The 2014 festival is on April 12-13 and April 19-20, 2014.
This two weekend long celebration includes traditional music, dance and other cultural activities.
During the festival, you can also sample a variety of Japanese and Japanese American cuisines. These include popular dishes such as fresh sushi, tempura, and chicken or beef teriyaki.
Another highlight of this SF event is the Grand Parade. It's usually held the final Sunday of the festival. and starts at City Hall around 1 PM on Polk Street near McAllister. The parade then follows Polk Street north to Post Street and turns left toward Japantown.
The parade concludes in Japantown near the Peace Plaza on Post Street at 3 PM. Here is a map showing the typical parade route.
Most of the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival Events are held in or near Japantown's Peace Plaza at Post and Buchanan Streets.
Here are some of the highlights of the 2013 event, along with a detailed calendar below. The 2014 calendar will be similar. They usually release the full schedule in mid to late-March, so will post more details around that time.
This is one my favorite things to see each year at the Cherry Blossom Festival. The Taiko Drum was originally used as a way to ward off evil spirits and pests from harming the crops.
Over the years, it was used less frequently in the Japanese culture and this art faded away. However, in recent years, Taiko Drum enthusiasts began a revival effort and now it's performed in Japanese cultures throughout the world.
Here are a few pictures of them in action.
In 2013, they performed at the following times on the Peace Plaza Stage:
They also had another performance on the small stage (JCCCNC):
Another traditional Japanese art is the Tea Ceremony. Throughout the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival, you'll get the chance to watch and learn more about this well-known Japanese ceremony.
Another highlight of the festival is the traditional Japanese music and dance. You will get the chance to listen to the music from a Koto, or Japanese harp. This is one of the most popular Japanese musical instruments.
You also get the chance to see Minyo, which is a traditional Japanese Folk Dance and Song. This has been handed down from generation to generation and has evolved over the years.
They usually have several performances both weekends.
Every year, there is also a special game and craft area for kids. The Sanrio Kids Corner features Hello Kitty and her friends.
Some of the games here in past years have included the Hello Kitty Spin & Win and Characters Sand Painting. In the past, there was an extra charge for this which was around $10 per child.
Here is the full schedule for the first weekend, April 13 & 14:
12:15-1:15: San Francisco Taiko
1:15-1:30: Opening Ceremony and Scholarship Presentation
1:30-2:00: Michiya Hanayagi and Michisuya Hanayagi Kai
2:00-2:30: Nihon Buyo Kiyonomoto
2:30-3:00: World Oyama Karate
3:00-3:15: Children's Tsuzumi Challenge
3:15-3:30: UC Berkeley Yosakoi Group
4:00-4:30: Sakura Minyo Doo Koo Kai
4:30-5:00: Tojokan Shinkendo Dojo
11:30-1:00: Japanese Music Institute of America
1:00-3:00: Minyo Minbu Festival
3:00-3:30: Kika Shibata, Sogetsu School
3:30-4:00: Marimo-Kai and Yukari Sakaguchi
4:00-4:30: Zuishu Krawetz, Wafu School of Ikebana
6:00-8:00: Shigin (Japanese Poetry in Singing Form)
12:00-12:30: CBF 2013 Queen and Court
12:30-1:30: San Francisco Taiko Dojo
1:30-2:00: Soko Joshi Dojo
2:00-2:30: Ensohza Minyoshi
2:30-3:00: San Francisco Wushu Team
3:30-4:00: Sunset School of Dance
4:00-4:15: Japanese Club of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory
4:15-4:30: Yoko & Sunshine Ladies
11:35-11:50: Chorale May
11:50-1:00: Seiha Sato Masazuka
1:00-1:30: Kiyonomoto Ryu
1:30-2:00: Mitsuyo Suiko Tao, Ikenobo Ikebana
2:00-3:00: Shimaoka Kazusa Kai
3:00-3:30: Hoei Miyazaki, Ohara Ikebana School
3:30-4:00: Nishikawa Ryu
4:00-5:00: Tamie Kooyenga & Koto Harmonia
JCCCNC Issei Memorial Hall: April 13/14-Ikebana Exhibit
JCCCNC Classroom One: April 13/14-Washi Ningyo Exhibit/Demonstration
JCCCNC Classroom Two: April 14- J, Robot: A Documentary Film Exhibit By Michael Garrigues, 1:00 to 2:15 pm and 2:30 to 3:15 pm
JCCCNC Exhibit Room at 1840 Sutter St.: April 13/14-Shishu-Japanese Embroidery
Tateuchi Auditorium (NLF) at 1830 Sutter St.:
JACL at 1765 Sutter St.: April 13/14 - Origami Exhibit and Demonstration
Sequoia’s at 1400 Geary Blvd: April 13, 3:00 pm - Yonsei Musicians
Union Bank Hospitality Room at 1675 Post St. (East Mall): April 13/14 - Japanese Sword Club
NJAHS at 1684 Post Street: April 13 - JAM: Iconic Posters of Asian America 1977-2000
Hokka Nichibei Kai - "Kan So An" at 1757 Sutter St. 3rd Floor:
Sundance Kabuki Cinema: April 14 - Kayo Parade, 12:30 pm, $30 donation
Performances on the Webster Street Stage:
Here is the full schedule for the second weekend, April 20 - 21:
12:00-12:30: San Francisco Taiko Dojo
12:30-1:00: Grass Valley Taiko
1:00-1:30: Rosa Parks School Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program
1:30-1:45: El Cerrito High School Japanese Club
1:45-2:00: Children's Tsuzumi Challenge
2:00-2:30: San Francisco Okinawa Kenjin Kai
2:30-2:45: Sheena Miura Shockness
2:45-3:05: Hana wa saku - Nihon no Bi to Wa
3:05-3:20: Saki Jazz Band
3:20-3:40: Cyclub & Kids Orchestra
3:40-4:00: Takane Kochihira
4:00-4:20: Rinka Buyo Group
4:20-4:50: Zanshin Dojo
4:50-5:20: Northern California Naginata Federation
12:30-1:00: Wesley Ukulele Band
1:00-1:30: Gen Ryu Arts Presents - Gen Ensemble
1:30-2:00: Studio Mai Nihonbuyo
2:00-3:00: Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto and Brian Mitsuhiro Wong Koto Studios
3:00-4:00: Northern California Seiha USA Orchestra
7:00: US-Japan Taiko Festival by San Francisco Taiko Dojo
11:00-12:00: San Francisco Kendo Dojo
12:00-12:30: Enshin Karate
12:30-1:00: Nishi Kaigan Iaido Dojo
3:30 -4:00: Awakko-ren
4:30-5:30: Dream Show: Anime Fashion Show, Singing (J-Pop and K-Pop), Anime Song and more
5:30: 2013 CBF Raffle Drawing
JCCCNC Issei Memorial Hall: April 20/21 - Bonsai Exhibit
JCCCNC Classroom One: April 20/21 - Origami Exhibit/Demonstration
JCCCNC Classroom Two: April 20/21 - Shodo (Calligraphy) Exhibit and Demonstration
JCCCNC Exhibit Room at 1840 Sutter St: April 20/21 - Karuta - Japanese Card Game
Tateuchi Auditorium (NLF) at 1830 Sutter St: April 20 - Urasenke Foundation Tea Ceremony -- 1, 2, 3, 4 pm demonstrations
JACL at 1765 Sutter St: April 20/21 - Origami Exhibit and Demonstration
Union Bank Hospitality Room at 1675 Post St. (East Mall): April 20/21 - Mataro Dolls Exhibit
NJAHS at 1684 Post St.: April 20 - JAM: Iconic Posters of Asian America 1977-2000
Sundance Kabuki Cinema: April 20 - Film Premiere of "Streams of Light" at 5:15 pm; "Infinity and Chashu Ramen" at 7 and 9 pm
Sundance Kabuki Cinema: April 20 - Japan Music Group performances from 12:30 to 4:30 pm
Webster Street Stage, April 20:
Are you still looking for a hotel for your stay? Here are several recommendations based on budget, amenities and neighborhood.
Are you looking for other things to do in Japantown? Do you need a hotel near the festival?
On this page, you'll find out other top activities in Japantown, recommendations for top hotels and some of my favorite restaurants in this SF neighborhood. You will also find the best public transportation options to get to the festival.
Learn More: Japantown
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