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

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March 6, 2020

Your Guide to the 2020 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 11-12 and 18-19, 2020.

Cherry Blossom Festival Highlights

The parade occurs on the second Sunday of the festival, April 19, 2020. 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 unique 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 11-12, 2020

The festival kicks off with an opening ceremony at the Peace Plaza stage at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 11. Take in a performance of Nihon Buyo Kiyonomoto, a traditional Japanese dance, and attend a Japanese fashion show at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Apr. 12, at the Sakura 360 stage. The Cherry Blossom Queen Program begins at 6 p.m. that night at the AMC Kabuki Theater.

Second Weekend: April 18-19, 2020

Expect to find plenty of community events taking place during the second weekend, such as the Anime Dream Show on Apr. 19 at 4 p.m. Marvel at the impressive origami creations and swords on display, as well as the Bonsai tree exhibit, as the ties across generations and traditions are celebrated on this final weekend. The Grand Parade will take place on Apr. 19, beginning at Civic Center at 1 p.m., proceeding through Polk and Post Streets and ending in Japantown at Post and Fillmore Streets.

Throughout the Festival

This year will feature the 4th Annual Cherry Blossom Film Festival, screening nine of Japan's most memorable films and anime at the New People Cinema. All films will be shown with subtitles, making it easy for everyone to attend.

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.


Photo by David Yu / CC BY-NC-ND

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