Experience the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco's historic Japantown.

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April 11, 2018

Your Guide to the 2018 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Parade & Events

The annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, always one of California's most splendid celebrations, will be held April 14-15 and 21-22, 2018.

Highlights

The parade occurs on the second Sunday of the festival, April 22, 2018. Beginning at Civic Center, it proceeds up Polk and Post Streets and ends in Japantown at Post and Fillmore Streets. 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.

Participating community groups include Boy 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, like 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 San Francisco parade.

Both weekends brim with special experiences, 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 14-15, 2018
The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony at the Peace Plaza stage at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. The Cherry Blossom Queen Program begins at 6 p.m. that night at the AMC Kabuki Theater. On Sunday, April 15, you can take in a performance of Kabuki Bayashi: Sound of Japanese Traditional Music at 1:30 p.m. There will be a Japanese fashion show at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Sakura 360 stage.

Second Weekend: April 21-22, 2018
On Sunday, April 22, you can hear all kinds of music at the festival. There will be a taiko concert, a ukelele band, and even some open mic karaoke! Expect to find plenty of community events, as the ties across generations and traditions are celebrated on this final day.

Throughout the Festival
This year will feature the 2nd Annual Cherry Blossom Film Festival, screening nine of Japan's most memorable films. All films will be shown with subtitles, making it easy for everyone to attend. Exploring the neighborhood will pay off, as each day there will be a Japantown Scavenger Hunt. Winners will have their choice of prizes!

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, newly renovated 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.

Photo by David Yu / CC BY-NC-ND

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