Planning your spring vacations? Consider including a few days in San Francisco to your itinerary; it’s a quirky, artsy, multi-cultural city that has just about a little bit of everything for the traveler looking to enjoy an insider experience that goes beyond hokey touristy stuff. One of the biggest local events of the year is actually just around the corner – the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, which is one of the finest celebrations of Japanese art and culture in this country. If you’re looking to use your customized Go Select San Francisco Pass to explore the city like the local, the Cherry Blossom Festival is the place to be this April.
2014 marks the 47th year of the Cherry Blossom Festival, a popular community event that draws visitors from all over to San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood. Located along Post Street between Laguna and Fillmore, the festival booths and performances are also near the beautiful, historic Pacific Heights Neighborhood (be sure the take the Pacific Heights Walking Tour after the festival to check out all of the important landmarks and buildings). The festival will run on two weekends this spring: April 12-13 and April 19-20. The event is free and open to the public; families are especially welcome!
The San Francisco Cherry Blossom festival showcases the various art forms that are unique to Japanese and Japanese-American culture. If you enjoy music, you’ll be able to see a wide variety of traditional examples, like Minyo folk dance, the Koto 13-stringed zither, Shakuhachi bamboo flutes, and impressive Taiko drums. Keep an eye out for dancers and performers in a wide array of traditional garb, exquisitely dyed, embroidered, and constructed to reflect generations of sartorial design.
The Chanoyu tea ceremony is among the most unique and graceful Japanese traditions you’ll see at the Festival this year, and it’s one of my personal favorites. Learn how the practice of preparing, serving, and enjoying tea can be a meditative and peaceful experience and has been a sign of friendship in Japanese culture for centuries. You can also see demonstrations of ink painting, calligraphy, doll-making, origami, and bonsai design. Last but not least, you’ll be able to see beautiful examples of traditional Ikebana, or the art of flower/plant arrangement. The Ikebana arrangements follow a very particular pattern and usually employ seasonal plants, and are a gorgeous site to behold.
In addition exciting performances like cultural dances, martial arts demonstrations, and live music, you’ll also be able to check out specialty Japanese cuisine and crafts and clothing at marketplace vendors. If you’re traveling with children, be sure to stop by the special kids area for cultural activities and performances aimed at the younger crowd. The featured events of the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival are the Queen Program (a mentorship program that selects a number of young women to be cultural ambassadors for the upcoming year) and the Grand Parade (held on Sunday, April 20). The Grand Parade begins at the San Francisco City Hall and ends in the heart of Japan Town.
The San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival is a striking community-wide expression of the unique beauty, art, and history of Japanese culture. It’s an experience that you won’t want to miss this spring! If you want to enjoy other cultural and artistic attractions alongside this special event, customize a San Francisco Pass to save on visits to the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and more!