Gakei Jitodai Koto Group (Photo: nccbf.org)
Celebrate Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese-American community at the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. It takes place in San Francisco’s Japantown (Post & Buchanan Streets) over two weekends - April 9 & 10 and April 16 & 17, 2011. A dazzling display of cultural performances and Asian traditions are showcased in this event that attracts more than 200,000 people each year - the second largest festival of its kind in the nation. You’ll see live performances of Japanese music and dance, martial arts demonstrations, a traditional arts and crafts fair, flower arranging, tea ceremonies and plenty of Japanese culinary cuisine. A Grand Parade with colorful floats, dancers and local dignitaries closes the festival on Sunday, April 17. Most events during the festival are free.
San Francisco’s Japantown encompasses about six square city blocks and is one of only three remaining Japantowns in the United States. It’s known as Nihonmachi or Little Osaka, a moniker earned because San Francisco's oldest sister city is Osaka, Japan. Within Japantown is the Japan Center, a five-acre shopping and restaurant complex and site of the landmark five-story, 100’ tall Peace Pagoda - donated to Japantown by the city of Osaka in 1968. Along the streets and within the Center, you’ll see fine displays of Japan’s (unofficial) national flower – the cherry blossom. A delicate flower that blooms for a very short time, the cherry blossom is said to represent the transience of life and the belief that life is short and beautiful, not unlike the life span of the cherry blossom itself.
In response to the recent devastation in Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, The Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has been established on behalf of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Visit the Cherry Blossom home page and watch the video for details on how you can contribute. In addition, a charity concert to benefit the fund will take place on Saturday, April 16 at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.