The cherry blossoms are in bloom, and in San Francisco’s Japan Town, the past two weekends were spent in celebration. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (NCCBF) is a huge cultural event, featuring traditional Japanese performances, a beauty pageant, and the occasional touch of contemporary entertainment.
Throughout the two weekends, the streets were filled with vendors. Some were selling toys and entertainment, others works of art, and many more still had giveaways or used their booths to advertise. Perhaps most important, however, was the booth for the Shiba Inu Fanciers of Northern California, because that was constantly filled with very good dogs.
For the weekend’s entertainment, though, one couldn’t go wrong with the Sakura 360 area. It had moved from its previous spot to a few streets away, and there were a few differences from previous years, but at its core was still focused on bringing entertainment and a focus on anime/pop culture to the crowds.
The Sakura 360 stage was constantly busy, whether it was games and trivia contests, musical guests such as Ayakashi or Coast in the Clouds, or a cosplay showcase where attendees dressed as their favorite characters could go on stage and show off their craft. The organizers worked hard to make sure everyone was involved and entertained, and the crowds stayed consistently large throughout the weekends.
As always, the final Sunday was the biggest draw. In past years, the bright sun and burning temperatures made cosplayers brave the heat to march in the parade. This year, however, they faced the opposite problem, as pouring rain threatened to drench their suits. Samurai and Power Rangers alike withstood the cold conditions, walking in the parade with heads and umbrellas held high until they made their way from the Civic Center to Japan Town, accompanying the rest of the festival’s grand parade.
No matter when you go, the Cherry Blossom Festival has something great to offer. It’s a celebration of Japanese culture, but has a place for anime fans and enthusiasts to share in the festivities. The crowds are huge, but there’s always something to see or do, and the festival continues to be a yearly draw for many in the Bay Area.