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2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival – Sakura Matsuri April 26, 2011

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Japan, Otaku.
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2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

I attended San Francisco’s Japantown’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival which is always held in April, also known as the Sakura Matsuri. I’ve been attending for three year in a row already and it’s nice to come and visit when the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full bloom, well actually I think they were a bit overgrown due to the green leaves already taking over. I already did a long post about the Cherry Blossom Festival on Figure.fm, so I’m not going to do the same thing here, I’ll just summarize my experience of the 2011 Sakura Matsuri. (Here is the link for my full post about the festival: 2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival)

All photos here are from My Flickr, here is the link to the set containing photos from the 2011 Sakura Matsuri.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

I went 3 out of 4 days of the festival, the only day I didn’t go was the first day Saturday April 9th due to having other plan. Throughout the entire festival, I noticed a couple of differences from last year’s festival. One was that there seemed to be more people attending the festival, and Two is from the shops and stalls asking people for support for the victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, both of which I believe are related to each other, more people attending the festival to support Japan’s relief efforts.

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2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

On Sunday April 10th I went with my family, mostly just sightseeing stores and and other things of interest. One store we stayed in for a while is the new Daiso Japan store that opened up. Located right under the Ichiban Kan store, they sell a wide variety of Japanese store items ranging from bento lunch boxes, stationary goods, key chains, snacks, tools, and more, similar to what Ichiban Kan sells. There is also a Daiso Japan store located at the Serramonte mall in Colma, but that store has been there for a while already. It’s interesting looking at all the different stuff they sell, and it’s cheap too at $1.50 (unless price as marked). Don’t know if the $1.50 thing is to stay though, Ichiban Kan was having it’s grand opening so I don’t know if it is just a promotion.

There isn’t too much to say for my visit on April 10th, as it was just a quick look around of this year’s festivities and also because stayed for only a few hours.

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2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

On Saturday April 16th, I had to attend an Japanese cultural event that was about the Karuta Hyakunin Isshu for an extra credit assignment for my JAPN 102 class.

I didn’t know anything about it prior to attending the Karuta Hyakunin Isshu card games, so I was a bit nervous when it was time for guests to try it for themselves, even more so was that all the instructions, on the paper and spoken, was in Japanese. Of course I can understand somewhat what was being said, but for the main part I was confused about the whole objective of the game. While the game was going on the only thing I understood was that during the speaking of the poem, you have to listen carefully for the name of one of the cards. When you do so, you are to hit the card off the playing area before your opponent does. My opponent was a nice Japanese lady was seemed to be new to it as well, she mainly spoke to me in Japanese and in English at certain times. I was able to understand her for the most part and even made a bit of conversation at the end of the game which I think is some progress in my Japanese studies.

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2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

Sunday April 17th was the final day of the festival, which is always the most crowded day due to the parade that starts from SF Civic Center, goes through downtown streets to eventually reach Japantown about 7-10 blocks away. This was my second year going to the Civic Center for the Sakura Matsuri. At the Civic Center, cosplayers gather for the cosplay contest, and also to be a part of the parade. Last year was my first time taking pictures specifically for cosplay, but WAS not a cosplayer myself. (I made my debut here at the Civic Center this year, but was a cosplay fail in my opinion. To read more about my cosplay diasater, check out my Figure.fm post about the 2011 Sakura Matsuri.) I was quite excited that instead of just seeing pictures on the internet from my computer screen, I could actually be at a cosplay event and taking pictures on my own. I never went alone to Civic Center for the Sakura Matsuri, I met up with people from my AnimeFX club. This year’s cosplay for the Sakura Matsuri was great as usual, but I thought there were less people there than last year. Here is just a few of the best cosplay I saw at the Civic Center:

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

This Princess Peach cosplay was one of the winners of the cosplay contest.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

I'm assuming this is from the series Panty & Stocking. Also was one of the winners of the cosplay contest.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

This Link was best of show, getting first place for her cosplay. Lots of detail went into creating the cosplay as you can see.

All three were winners in the cosplay contest. If you want to check out more of the cosplay from the Civic Center and festival, check out my Flickr, link near top of post/on the right sidebar.

While my failed cosplay brought me down a bit, what made up for it was my semi participation in the parade. I was not wearing my cosplay during the parade. I took it off before I left the Civic Center.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

I love how most of the cosplayers are looking at the camera.

The reason why I called my participation “semi” is because I kind of joined the parade on impulse. I know the one of the guys in charge of the cosplay masquerade, and he was telling me about the parade and how it works and such. I decided to join just as the parade was about to begin, but had to wait a bit at the Civic Center for a late friend. Once he arrived we both ran up to catch up to the cosplay parade group, and then photo ops ensued.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

Being a part of the parade means that I wasn’t deep in the crowd taking a picture behind someone’s back. Since I wasn’t in my cosplay at the time, I tried to blend in with the roaming photographers that were constantly circling the cosplay group. All I had that was costume-ish was a sword I was carrying around on my back. At one point while I was away from the cosplay group, one of the volunteer workers asked me if I was a part of the parade which I quickly replied yes and hid within the cosplay group crowd. Like I said before I joined impulsively but was still legit due to the guy in charge of the cosplay parade group giving me clearance. I’m thankful for knowing such great friends and acquaintances who work in these kind of events. Maybe I’ll find myself working in these someday (I like working backstage).

After a long walk from the Civic Center to Japantown, it’s time for some food. Didn’t even eat any breakfast so my first food of the day was some spam musubi and Hawaiian Sun Guava drink, same as last year.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

What was different this year than the other years of Sakura Matsuris was of course the Sendai Earthquake which has had a impact all around the world. While walking around, most of the stores had fliers and posters on their windows that were about helping Japan by sending part of their profit to Japan to support relief efforts there. Under the Sakura, people were writing messages on a big piece of cloth that I’m assuming is going to be sent to Japan along with other relief aid. This is really the only way we can help being so far away from Japan. I know that Japan will rise again, higher than it was before, ready for the future. I pray for the recovery of Japan, and hope that others will support Japan not only by sending money, but actually by going to Japan once most of the problems that the earthquakes caused have cleared. Tourism is part of their economy, so we can support them by visiting the land of the rising sun.

After eating, the only (important) events left was the anime talent show and cosplay contest. Took photos of it and you’ll find it on my Flickr set. I’m not going to post the link again as I’ve given it a few times already in this post.

2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

Overall the festival was very enjoyable and I’ll always come back to see the Sakura bloom under the Peace Padoga every year. There may have been so ups and downs to my experiences with this year’s festival, such as my cosplay fail and my participation in the parade, but I’ll prefer coming to Japantown any day than just staying home. It’s also a nice opportunity to see Japantown with many people instead of the usual near ghost town that it becomes on normal days, though it can get annoyingly crowded, it’s good for the businesses there.

So far I’ve got through 2 out of 4 Japan/anime con events planned. The next event will definitely be another test in my abilities to handle anime cons, Fanime. It will be my first time going, but at least I’ve rooming with people I know who know Fanime inside and out. All I need to do is perfect my cosplay and I’ll be ready.

Please check out my post about the 2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival on Figure.fm. A lot of the stuff I’m referring to in this post is in there. Also if you don’t know yet, here is the link to my set of all my photos from the festival, about 380 photos in all: Photos from the 2011 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival on Flickr

See you around next post. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean another month wait….)

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