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San Francisco Sakura Festival

Not to be outdone, San Francisco holds an exciting celebration of the Spring festival in their very own Japantown. The festival is also known as the North California Cherry Blossom Festival which celebrates the colour and grace of Japanese culture and diversity of the Japanese American community. The Cherry Blossom Festival is also an annual celebration of the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the people of Tokyo to American citizens.

The celebrations are a colourful affair with performances from taiko (Japanese drum) drummers, Japanese classical and folk dancers, martial artists and others. Performers would be dressed in colourful traditional Japanese costumes complete with golden embroidery, floral prints and eye-catching head gear. Enthusiastic Caucasians are also seen in their own versions of Asian traditional costumes which they sportingly parade in, all in the name of fun.

The Cherry Blossom Festival will also include a food bazaar, featuring traditional Japanese cuisine and cooking demonstrations, a Japanese traditional arts and crafts fair, and a children’s village. The festivities would usually coincide with the blooming of the beautiful cherry blossoms which proliferate in Japantown in hues of pure white or sweet pink. It is no wonder that more than 200,000 people gather to observe the festive event every year.

Japan Takayama Spring Festival

The Takayama Festival is celebrated annually in the month of April to usher in the Spring season and is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals. The celebration of the Spring festival is a grand affair with about a dozen of festival floats or yatai being paraded through their streets, either towed or accompanied by participants dressed in their traditional costumes.

The design and architecture of these festival floats alone are impressive enough to attract the congregation of several hundred thousands of spectators and merry-makers. These three storey high floats are all intricately built with a master’s attention to detail. The floats come adorned with large drums, gold gilding, lanterns, mirrors and crimson tassels. Its sides are drapped with lush tapestry and each are guarded by gold figurines of dragons and phoenix that perch on its rooftops.

Several of the floats are also decorated with karakuri ningyo which are sophisticated mechanical dolls that can move and dance. Another integral part of the procession is the portable shrines, each containing their respective deities, which are paraded throughout the festival. The whole affair is truly a wonderful sight amidst the beautiful backdrop of blooming cherry blossoms.

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