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 2015 festival is on April 11-12 and April 18-19.
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 is on Sunday, April 19 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 is what you can expect at this year's San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival.
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.
They perform the following times during the 2015 festival:
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 schedule for the first weekend on the Peace Plaza Stage:
Here is the schedule for the second weekend, April 18 - 19:
You will find dozens of other performances at this year's event. Visit the official Cherry Blossom site for a full schedule of events.
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
SF Giants: The 2014 World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, kick of their 2015 season this April. Their first home game is on Monday, April 13. Click here for additional details.
Book of Mormon: Head over to the Orpheum Theater for the biggest theater performance this month, Book of Mormon. By the creators of South Park, this funny musical will keep you laughing all night long. Click here for ticketing details and the full theater calendar for this April.
TAPAS Wine Tasting Event: Another fun event this month is the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting Event. Open to the public, this event features domestically produced wines from grapes that originated in Spain and/or Portugal. Click here for this year's event details.
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