Kimono is one of the most recognizable and elegant elements of the Japanese culture. Every year at The Cherry Blossom Festival a kimono is given to the queen on the coronation night. This tradition was started in 1973 and more than four decades later the queens continue to receive this generous gift courtesy of Fujiyasu Kimono Company.

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Fujiyasu Corporation, previously Fujiyasu Shoten Co., has a long history of making and selling traditional Japanese clothing. Established as a small business with just one small shop in Shiga, Japan, the company expanded to many other parts of the country over the years. It survived The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and bombing raids during the Pacific War in 1945. Every time the firm was rebuilt and renewed thanks to the hard work and dedication of its owners. Despite the natural disasters and uncertain economic times, Fujiyasu Kimono Company prospers till these days.

Mr. Seishichi Ato, the fourth president of Fujiyasu, started donating kimonos to the Queen Programs of various festivals that celebrated Japanese communities in the U.S. He became one of the major benefactors of the queens for the NCCBF for presenting the kimonos. Unfortunately, Mr. Ato passed away in February of this year but he will always be remembered as someone who commenced the tradition of helping to connect Japan and its descendents in the United States.

Benh Nakajo, NCCBF Queen Program Director, perfectly described Fujiyasu Company’s contributions to the event: “Over the decades, the Cherry Blossom Festival queens have received 42 kimonos from Fujiyasu. In addition to the Queen’s kimono, the festival has also received 12 sets of full kimonos donated by Fujiyasu. Without the generosity and support of Fujiyasu, the festival and the queen program would not have been successful and sustainable for so many decades and passing on the tradition and legacy to future generations.

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The iconic garment of Japanese fashion is quite a generous donation considering the fact that it costs thousands of dollars. Every kimono is a unique expression of bold colors and motifs as well as symbolic meanings and conventions. It is an absolute masterpiece with an auspicious significance. It is no wonder that a single kimono takes up to a year to complete. Almost immediately after the queen gets her kimono, Fujiyasu Company starts designing and manufacturing a new one.

When Mr. Shotaro Kawazoe became the fifth President of Fujiyasu, the company has been presenting a set of Furisode kimono to the Cherry Blossom Queen in San Francisco as well as the queens in Honolulu and Washington DC annually. His successor and the current president of Fujiyasu Kimono Company, Mr. Kazunari Mochizuki kept this wonderful tradition that ties Japan with the Japanese American community. The Cherry Blossom Festival will proudly display a wide range of kimonos on April 11th, 2015 during the Queen Program.

For more information about the NCCBF Queen Program, please check HERE.

See all the collection of Fujiyasu kimonos over the decades HERE.

by Halyna Yakubovich
NCCBF Social Media Guest Blogger

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.

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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. Sakura 360 is also made possible in association with 1UP Level, GDC Event and Cosplay SF. 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 as well as their generous contribution to Sakura 360. This partnership enhanced the program and made it more interesting and appealing for the younger audience. Follow Japan Expo Facebook page to learn more about them.

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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!