San Francisco’s Japantown hosted its 55th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival over the last two weekends to celebrate the beginning of spring. It was the first in-person Cherry Blossom Festival in two years due to COVID-19.
The festival’s theme for 2022 was 栄える(Sakaeru), which means “to come back, flourish as a community, and festival.” This year’s festival symbol was the frog, which was used to signify “springing forward.”
Hundreds of vendors lined Post Street during the two weekend event to entertain, share cultural crafts and sell goods to over 220,000 festival-goers. In the center of the festival was Japantown’s main stage, Peace Plaza, where live performances were held during the entirety of the festival.
Cherry blossom trees are a prominent fixture on Post Street, with many attendees stopping to admire their distinguished pink hue, such as attendee Tiffani Cheng.
“They make me feel really happy, pink is my favorite color,” said Cheng.
Most of the festival’s attractions were back this year, however the Grand Parade was postponed until 2023. The Grand Parade is held during the final Sunday of the festival.
The Cherry Blossom Film Festival, the Cherry Blossom Taiko Festival, the Friendship Reception and the Scavenger Hunt were all also postponed until 2023.
As one of three remaining officially designated Japantowns in the United States, San Francisco’s Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is used as a means to preserve traditions and fortify the relationship between Japan and the United States.
The festival is also a way to boost the local economy, which according to the owner of Japantown’s Aloha Warehouse, Jessette Novero, is needed now more than ever after the impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of business; we were pretty much closed most of 2020 and 2021,” Novero said. “As restrictions started to lift a few months ago it’s been really tough getting the foot traffic that we’re normally used to, so having events like this has really helped bolster sales.
Though the festival is essential for many of the neighborhood’s small businesses, Japantown’s Patch Kids Crew owner Puka Novero said it is also a way to bring families together.
“We love the Cherry Blossom Festival, even before we were participating as vendors, I used to come every year with my family,” Novero said. “It’s been a big part of our lives so it’s really nice to see it back in action.”
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival came to a close on Sunday, but will be back for two weekends next April with even more attractions for festival-goers to look forward to.
A group performs their act on the main stage of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown on April 17. (Rashik Adhikari / Golden Gate Xpress)