The Cherry Blossom Festival

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December 15, 2016

Your Guide to the 2017 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Parade & Events

The 50th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, always one of California's most splendid celebrations, will be held April 8-9 and 15-16, 2017.


The parade occurs on the second Sunday of the festival, April 16, 2017. Beginning at Civic Center at 1 p.m., it proceeds up Polk Street to Post and ends in Japantown at Post and Fillmore Streets. A number of performers from Japan participate annually. With fans unfurled, traditionally dressed Japanese dance groups from throughout the Bay Area perform classical (buyo) and folk dance (minyo). Come early to enjoy the food bazaars, purchase unusual local crafts and see special exhibits throughout the neighborhood.

Community groups include Bay Scout troops from Japanese American communities. The internationally known San Francisco Taiko Dojo is always a thrilling part of the parade as the thunder of their drums (taiko) echoes along the route. There is local “royalty” on floats such as the Miss Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her court. Anchoring the parade is the taru mikoshi; weighing approximately 1,000 pounds, it is lifted up and down by more than 150 muscular athletes.

In a tradition going back more than 15 years, on the Saturday prior to the parade, there is a special purification ceremony of the taru mikoshi by Kanda Myojin priests. The Kanda Myojin temple is located in the Kanda area of Tokyo and members of the temple donated the taru mikoshi currently carried in the parade. The parade usually ends at approximately 3 p.m.

Each weekend is brimming with special exhibits such as Japanese doll making, origami demonstrations, flower arranging and visits from local Akita dog breeders. However, there are some activities that are unique to each:

First Weekend, April 8-9, 2017
One of the highlights of this first weekend is the Kayo parade at noon, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. The first half of the performance showcases 29 local singers and performers from California, Washington and regions in Japan. Japanese guest artists this year also include Eiji Natsuki of Tokum Record Co., a popular recording artist in Japan. Suggested donation is $30.

Second Weekend, April 15-16, 2017
Bonsai and suiseki displays will grace the Japanese Cultural and Community Center throughout this weekend. While mid-day, community concerts will be performed throughout both weekends of the festival, there is a ticketed event on Saturday, April 15, 2017 by the famed San Francisco Taiko Dojo at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St. Often sold-out, it is best to secure tickets now for the concert. Tickets may be obtained by calling 415-928-2456 or visit their showroom at 1581 Webster St. The festival is culminated with the Grand Parade. Don’t miss this event Sunday, April 16 starting at City Hall at 1 p.m. and concluding in Japantown at 3 p.m

Best Places to Stay in Japantown During Your First Time
If you're looking to stay in Japantown, you have several options:

Hotel Kabuki - This elegant hotel is connected to the Nihonmachi Mall and blends Eastern and Western design. It features on-site dining and an indoor garden with a fish pond.
The Kimpton Buchanan - This hotel is situated in the heart of Japantown and offers unique accommodations that are only a short distance from popular tourist sites.
Queen Anne - Situated not far from the neighborhood, Queen Anne is a classic Victorian boutique property decorated with English and American antiques.

View more hotels.

In addition to parking at the Japan Center, Parking Panda has partnered with parade organizers and is offering multiple locations throughout Japantown.

Photo by David Yu / CC BY-NC-ND


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