Following World War II, the Japanese and Japanese American communities resettled in San Francisco’s Japantown, one of the three remaining officially designated Japantowns in the United States. The first Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (formerly San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival) was celebrated over three days, March 29-31, 1968, right after the opening of the Japan Trade Center (now Japan Center Malls) on March 28, 1968. A group of dedicated Japanese and Japanese American business and community leaders started the Festival as a way to preserve traditions, revitalize the local economy, and strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and Japan. Walk down memory lane with us by visiting our 10 Must-See Photos blog and purchasing A Golden Journey – Images of 50 Years of Japanese Culture photobook.
The Festival is now organized by a group of dedicated volunteers and has become one of the largest and most prominent cherry blossom festivals outside of Japan. Over its two-weekend festivities, the Festival also offers the opportunity to look back at the history of Japanese and Japanese Americans in Northern California and enjoy the culture and customs that have survived thanks to the hardships of multiple generations. The highlight of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the Grand Parade which stretches over a mile from Civic Center Plaza to Japantown, showcasing many of the cultural and community organizations that contribute to the continued success of the Festival.