Spring is in the air, and for anime fans in the Bay Area, that means one thing: the SF Cherry Blossom Festival and the cosplay parade. Each year, the Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) brings a celebration of Japanese culture to San Francisco’s Japan Town, and with it comes a grand parade, which always saves a spot for cosplayers.
However, CBF was a two-weekend event, and the parade was only on Sunday. The festival began on the weekend of the 9th, with tents, vendors, activities, and festivities for people to enjoy. One returning scene from last year was the Sakura 360 area, which provided shows, games, and entertainment with a pop culture touch.
Throughout the first weekend, Sakura 360 featured musical guests such as Akai Sky and Super Soul Bros, song and dance performances, cosplay or lolita contests, and all sorts of game shows. Contestants from the audience could come on stage to compete in games such as anime trivia, winning prizes or entry into a raffle. At the end of the weekend, there was a huge game of Cosplay Chess, where audience volunteers were the pieces and directed by players on the stage.
Those wandering around the festival could also join in on a scavenger hunt bingo game, where they’d need to take pictures of certain things around the festival, such as cosplayers from a certain type of series, landmarks in the Japan Town mall, or even themselves striking poses from certain series. Winners earned raffle tickets, which entered them into drawings for prizes like anime DVDs, figures, or video games.
The second weekend saw the grand parade, which marched from the Civic Center to Japan Town. While the previous weekend saw clouds and a bit of rain, the parade day was sweltering hot, but that didn’t stop cosplayers from showing up in ornate outfits they constructed by hand. Cosplayers could mingle, get pictures, or just try to beat the heat before the parade, during which they’d walk together with the rest of it, or ride atop the float, to the destination at Japan Town. It’s a tradition for cosplayers in and around San Francisco, and one that’s been kept alive by the dedication of the attendees and staff that make it possible.
Also of note: there were a lot of Shiba Inu. The Shiba Inu Fanciers of Northern California had educational booths, as well as a spot in the parade, so anyone who likes those fluffy little dogs was in for a treat.
With two weekends of the Cherry Blossom Festival over, attendees can rest their weary feet, get out of the huge crowds that filled Japan Town, and begin preparing for next year’s festival.