Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

On April 20th and 21st, San Francisco is hosting the second weekend of its annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. For travelers in Northern California this weekend, the Festival is a perfect addition to your to-do list of popular San Francisco attractions. Spend some time in the lovely San Francisco spring weather, enjoy the culinary talents of the city’s best Japanese chefs, and breathe in the intoxicating scent of Japanese cherry blossoms. What’s not to like?

A local tradition that dates back to 1967, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Held in the Japantown neighborhood of San Francisco, the Festival honors and displays all facets of Japanese and Japanese-American culture, such as singing, dancing, and martial arts. Visitors will also have plenty of chances to sample delicious traditional and modern Japanese cuisine.

A visit to the Cherry Blossom Festival is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in all things Japanese. Throughout the weekend, the Festival showcases four representative traditions that capture the unique essence of Japanese culture: playing of the taiko drums; Chanoyu, the tea ceremony; Ikebana, the spiritual art of floral and plant arrangement; and a representation of traditional musical genres and instruments, including folk music, Minyo, and the Koto instrument.

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Some examples of Ikebana floral arrangement

The highlight of this weekend is the Grand Parade on Sunday afternoon, which begins at 1:00 pm at the San Francisco Civic Center and ends in Japantown at Post and Fillmore Streets. Expect to be dazzled by the classical and folk music played along the route. You’ll also get a glimpse of the Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her court. The parade will provide some of the best photo opportunities of the Festival.

At the heart of the Festival is the Japan Center (located at Post & Buchanan Streets), which is a 5-acre cultural center honoring Japanese heritage. The Center is hosting a variety of demonstrations, performances, and talks. Festival activities and events are held between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. A few select events will be held at the JCCCNC Stage (1840 Sutter St.), but most will be on the Peace Plaza Stage in the Japan Center. Most events are free to the public – consult the Festival Schedule of Events for the most detailed information.

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An exhibit at the Asian Art Museum

Now while there’s plenty to do and see at the Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend, you may be interested in exploring a bit more of San Francisco. We’ve pulled together some recommended San Francisco attractions that  relate to a different aspect of the Festival. If you were inspired by the beauty and elegance of the Ikebana installations, consider a visit to the Conservatory of Flowers, a lush living museum of flora in Golden Gate Park. If the décor and costuming of Festival performers caught your eye, you must spend some time at the Asian Art Museum, which features a varied and extensive collection of more than 17,000 works of art from Pacific cultures, including paintings, textiles, and sculptures.

So sip your tea, listen to the beat of the taiko drums, and breathe in that cherry blossom perfume this weekend as you experience the 2013 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival.

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