2010 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

I love festivals.   There’s nothing like turning a regular old day into a giant outdoor party.   That’s why yesterday when my friend invited me to meet her at the “Japantown festival,” I was excited to go.  I looked it up online, and it turned out to be officially called the  43rd Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.

San Francisco’s Japantown is fun to visit even when there are no festivities.  The neighborhood is really nice to walk around, and the Japanese stores have so many goodies.   It’s also really easy to get to from the Union Square area –   a straight shot down Sutter Street on the public bus (#3 Muni).   Or you can go on the #38 Muni down Geary Street.

Today was an especially fabulous day because the weather was “tee-shirt only.”  Naturally the four of us who met there all had jackets with us (locals always do), but they actually proved to be quite handy in providing shade during the demonstration by the Japanese sword club.  The seats were in the blazing sun, but there were few people complaining.  The previous Sunday had been pouring rain, so we were all glad for some sunshine.

My friend disobeyed one of the three cardinal rules of living in San Francisco though (Never leave the house without sunblock), so we limited our broiling time to about 40 minutes.  Then we headed for the shade to none other than Daiso; no trip to Japantown is complete without going there.  It is like a Japanese dollar store.  Everything there is $1.50 unless otherwise marked.  Locals love it, but if you’re a tourist, you should definitely stop by there if you want some really cute but inexpensive souvenirs like delicate little fans or beautiful little cups.

And of course no festival outing would be complete without the delicious street vendor fare.  We wandered past bonzai tree displays, cute tee-shirts and tons of shiny baubles to the bustling heart of the festival – the food vendors.   At first glance, the lines were a little disheartening, but they mostly moved fast.   Everything we tried was yummy, though I wasn’t feeling super adventurous in my food choices.  Next time I’ll have to try the Japanese popcorn, which I overheard someone say has seaweed in it.

There’s a two-hour parade that starts at City Hall, but we had to miss it because we had to leave.   But next year I definitely plan to see it.    Anyone in town that day should too.

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