Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival 2015
By Robbie Pleasant
As the cherry blossoms bloomed in early April, San Francisco’s Japan Town began two weekends of festivities for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Visitors flocked to the area to enjoy the festivities around the town, and the streets filled with the vendor tents and huge crowds.
The first weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival was centered entirely in Japan Town, where the festivities were held. Through Saturday and Sunday, performances were held to showcase Japanese culture, including taiko drummers and traditional dances. Vendors were set up around the street, some selling toys or raffles, while others advertised their organizations. Lines grew long for food trucks, including a Glico truck giving out free pocky to attendees, and a Hello Kitty food truck that always had a lengthy line.
A new addition was the Sakura 360 area, a stage for cosplayers and attendees to stop by at and participate in games for prizes. There was a scavenger hunt for people to participate in, and quite frequently the hosts ran a variety of games on the stage, with anything from hot potato to trivia contests about anime. There were some great prizes available, including DVDs, video games, and even entire box sets of anime series.
Of course, the mall at Japan Town became exceedingly crowded during the event, particularly around lunchtime. The restaurants had lengthy waits, but the options were plentiful, and the outdoor activities provided plenty to see while waiting.
On the Sunday of the second weekend was the grand parade. Cosplayers showed up in droves for the traditional cosplay contest before the parade, where the winners could sit on the float, and everyone else walked along beside them. Like any cosplay gathering, there were good times to be had hanging out with friends and fellow cosplayers, but there were some high-quality costumes in the contest. NorCal cosplayers can play for keeps when they get serious.
That weekend, the timing worked out so that Big Wow! ComicFest and Star Wars Celebration were at the same time, which may have split the crowd between events. Yet in spite of that, it was still crowded the entire weekend, and there were cosplayers aplenty.
As the Cherry Blossom Festival is a yearly tradition, those who missed out this time around can look forward to the next one. Autumn may be upon us now, but when spring comes around, we can look forward to the festival coming back with the cherry blossoms.