sakura360_logo_normalFor the first time this year NCCBF will have an exciting new addition to its program. Sakura 360 is a brand new area of the festival that will take place during its first weekend. What can you expect from the event? Imagine a magical box that pops open with bright colors, sensational beats and sounds. Sakura 360 is that box that kindly invites you to discover what’s inside.

Sakura 360 celebrates the diverse Japanese-American community as well as J-pop culture. “The Sakura 360 area is a place where I hope the traditional Japanese culture will meet the “new” Japanese culture. As we approach the 50th anniversary, I see this area playing a pivotal role in introducing the “new” culture of Japan to our festival fans especially in the area of fashion, gaming and anime. In each of these genres, many people are fusing traditional and modern Japanese culture”, says Greg Viloria, The 2015 NCCBF Executive Chair for PR/Marketing.

The Sakura 360 extensive program has lots to offer — there will be something for every pop-culture enthusiast. Surrounded by fun activities and live performances you will be transported to a place fueled by passion and energy. You will have an opportunity to participate in numerous fun games such as Cosplay Chess where people in costumes act as life size pieces, a scavenger hunt or Sempai Says (Simon Says), and of course, receive grand prizes. The Glico Pocky Truck will be present to give away free Pocky snacks! At the end of the day, everyone will be welcome to join a magnificent cosplay gathering for photos. You will not leave #Sakura360 without great pictures and memories.

pocky10

pocky11

Make sure not miss the “After Party”, which will take place on April 11th and feature local performers. DJ Kepik, one of the most popular DJs in the San Francisco Bay Area, will also be there to share his love for electronic rhythms with the audience. This is sure to be a euphoric night of dancing and music.

We are very grateful to our sponsors for supporting this event: Samurai Geisha Festival, FUNimation, Ezaki Glico Co., Idea Factory, The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Crunchy Roll, and NIS America. Special thank you goes to our partner Japan Expo, the largest expo outside of Japan, for helping us with the concept of celebrating the “new” culture of Japan. Follow their Facebook page to learn more about them. Sakura 360 is also made possible in association with 1UP Level, GDC Event and Cosplay SF.

Pink

Sakura 360 is absolutely free and open to the public. To stay tuned to the event news and updates, please join the Sakura 360 Facebook page. For more information feel free to contact Katheryne Vu, the Producer and Area Manager: katherynevu@gmail.com.

FYI:
When: Sakura 360 will take place on April 11th from 10:00am – 7:00pm and April 12th from 10:00am – 5:00pm (“After Party” — one night only, on April 11th from 5:00 – 7:00pm).
Where: Japantown, SF. The new area is located on the upper Post Street side of the festival between Buchannan and Laguna Streets.

by Halyna Yakubovich
NCCBF Social Media Guest Blogger

Former US Ambassador to Japan to lead the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 19

The 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival®, now celebrating its 48th year, is one of California’s most prominent celebrations of Asian traditions. This year we are honored to have John V. Roos, the former Ambassador to Japan as our 2015 Cherry Blossom Parade Grand Marshal.

Ambassador Roos was the United States Ambassador to Japan from August 2009 – August 2013. On Aug. 6, 2010, Ambassador Roos became the first sitting U.S. Ambassador ever to attend the commemoration ceremony of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. Ambassador Roos’ service in Tokyo coincided with the devastating 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis on March 11, 2011. Following this tragedy, Ambassador Roos led the American effort on the ground in support of Japan’s response to the multi-dimensional and unprecedented disaster. After the crisis, Ambassador Roos also led the creation of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a publicprivate partnership that has raised more than thirty million dollars and established more than 40 exchange programs. Ambassador Roos is a member of the Board of Directors at Salesforce.com and Sony Corporation and the Global Advisory Board of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.

“This year’s festival is excited to have John Roos as this year’s Grand Marshal as he helped many people after the Tohoku Earthquake,” said Allen Okamoto, co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.

“John Roos represents what the heart of this festival is all about – giving through philanthropy and volunteerism in times of great need. It is our way of acknowledging and saying ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Roos for his selfless actions and to sustain the goodwill relations between the two great nations,” said Richard Hashimoto, co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.

Previously, Ambassador Roos served as Chief Executive Officer and Senior Partner at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati, the leading law firm in the United States in the representation of technology, life sciences, and emerging growth companies. Ambassador Roos is a graduate with honors and distinction from Stanford University and from Stanford Law School where he was Order of the Coif.

This year’s parade will be on April 19, 2015 at 1pm starting at SF City Hall and ending at Japantown.

The SF Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on the weekends of April 11-12 and April 18-19 and is free. Please join in the festivities to celebrate Japanese and Japanese American culture in San Francisco’s Historic Japantown!

The annual North California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen program celebrates young women and their ethnic pride. At the press conference last week the 2015 candidates were finally unveiled. This year’s Cherry Blossom Court participants are four beautiful and intelligent young ladies: Taylor Keiko-Lehua Davis, Nina Marie Myers, Kelli Asako Sum and Karine Brenda Worley. They expressed their gratitude to their sponsors – Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco, Takara Sake, Benihana and Japanese Chamber of Commerce – for their support and contribution.

queens

The queens are young professionals who are achieving their educational goals by pursuing degrees at some of the top California universities. They have different interests and hobbies but there is one important trait they all share: remembrance of their cultural heritage. They have travelled to Japan, studied Japanese language and upheld their traditions. It is especially impressive given the fact that two of the contestants are fourth and fifth generations living in the United States.

The queens’ privileges come with considerable responsibilities. The participants will have to fulfill their duties as cultural ambassadors and contribute to the community by doing humanitarian and charitable work throughout the year. During their reign, they will engage in community service projects, serve as volunteers, be involved with different organizations and actively attend numerous events. Although such intensive schedule may seem overwhelming, the queens see it as once-in-a-lifetime chance for self-development, teamwork and skill enhancement. “The program is a great opportunity for me to gain more confidence in public speaking, analyze my strengths and weaknesses, and help me feel more mature along the way”, says Karine.

The coronation promises to be both a colorful and activity-packed event. One of the new things this year is kimono presentation. Unfortunately, a long time kimono sponsor and the president of the Fujiyasu Kimono Company, Mr. Seishichi Ato, passed away this year. He started a long-standing tradition of donating beautiful kimonos to the community, festivals and the queens since 1972. The attendees will get a chance to marvel at a display of kimonos on the stage and appreciate this element of Japanese history.

Another newcomer to the scene this year is video introduction, which will highlight the queens’ passions. The 2015 contestants will showcase their array of fascinating hobbies through creative video expression. Instead of briefly showcasing one of their talents on stage, the ladies will uncover a full spectrum of their favorite hobbies in a visual presentation. Their favorite activities such as playing the koto and dragon boat racing will definitely impress everyone. They reflect the outgoing and well-rounded personalities of the queens.

The Queen program coronation night will take place on April 11th at 6:00 pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in SF Japantown. The general admission is $25. The doors will open as early as 5:00 pm. For event updates please follow the festival official website and NCCBF social media outlets. Please come support our contestants and this wonderful tradition.

by Halyna Yakubovich
NCCBF Social Media Guest Blogger