Formerly, and commonly, known as the San Francisco or Japantown Cherry Blossom festival, this celebration in San Francisco's Nihonmachi bears little resemblence to hanami in Japan. However, it's a very good time to visit Nihonmachi, as in addition to the usual trendy-girl-infested mall-shopping, there's also a street fair, sales, and performances. The street fair features vendors selling art, jewelry, and other items--many of which are indeed very cool yet hardly related to anything Japanese at all. There's also a food area, with the usual Thai and hot dog stands, but better are the neat Japanese offerings such as mochi, sweet hot dorayaki, and coal-baked Japanese potatoes. The performances include taiko and martial arts in the Japantown Peace Plaza, and contemporary bands in the streets. Inside the Radisson Miyako there are more traditional performances including koto ensembles, buyo (classical Japanese dance), chanoyu (tea ceremony), karuta (card game based on the Hyakunin Isshu), and staggering exhibits of paper dolls, embroidery, and so on. For me, this was the best part of the festival.

The festival usually encompasses two weekends in April, with the Grand Parade on the first Sunday. Despite the lack of sakura, the entire event is highly recommended. Take the 38 or 38 L from Geary Street or the Transbay Terminal.

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