The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival will be celebrating its 56th year on the weekends of April 8-9 and 15-16 from 11am-6pm. It is set to take place at Japantown Peace Plaza in San Francisco.
The popular festival features plenty of Japanese cultural performances, a Grand Parade, traditional art, live music and dance, food, and much more. There’s also typically a Cherry Blossom Queen Program, a tradition that has spanned 5 decades at the SF festival.
Some standout exhibitions include origami exhibits and demonstrations, a bonsai and suiseki exhibit, Japanese paper dolls or washi ningyo, and calligraphy. You can see the preliminary schedule of events for 2023 here.
The NorCal Cherry Blossom Festival is divided into 5 distinct areas. Here’s a rundown of each one so you know where to go on the day of:
- Arts & Crafts Area 工芸 – An outdoor marketplace with Japanese- and Asian-inspired home goods, jewelry, clothing, and lifestyle items from independent artisans. Located at Buchanan mall on Buchanan Street between Sutter and Post.
- Children’s Village Area – Children and families can enjoy games and cultural hands-on activities. 2023 location and details TBA.
- Food Bazaar and Sapporo Beer Garden – 30+ local nonprofit organizations serve Japanese food and drink including imagawayaki, shaved ice, musubi and takoyaki. Find the Food Bazaar on Webster Street between Post and Sutter from 11am-5pm. The Sapporo Beer Garden will have several beer serving points throughout the festival including at the Food Bazaar, Japantown Peace Plaza and Webster Street Stage.
- Performances and exhibits at the Center – The Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) usually hosts indoor performances during the festival at 1840 Sutter Street. 2023 details TBA.
- Webster Street Stage – Enjoy live music and performances at this community stage on Webster Street.
The enormous festival started back in 1968 and typically welcomes 220,000 visitors each year to celebrate Japanese culture and enjoy the gorgeous pastel pink bloom. It’s one of the largest festivals of its kind outside of Japan, second only to Washington, D.C.’s, and takes place in one of the country’s few remaining Japantowns.
After World War II, there remained only 3 officially-designated Japantowns in the United States. Many Japanese Americans resettled in San Francisco’s Japantown, where Japanese culture, cuisine, and history continues to be honored to this day. The Northern California Cherry Blossom began in May 1968 following the opening of the Japan Trade Center (now Japan Center Malls). Since then, it has endured as a celebration of Japanese culture and a fruitful way to revitalize the neighborhood’s economy.
Learn more at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival website, and be sure to mark your calendar for April 8-9 and 15-16 from 11am-6pm at Japantown Peace Plaza.