The 54th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival will commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake with our 2021 Festival theme, Kizuna – Strength through Bonds of Community and Friendship. On Monday, May 31, 2021, and as the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to a close, the Festival Committee will premiere “Reflections of Tohoku.”

This is a short documentary film in honor of all those affected by the Tohoku Earthquake and the contributions made by the Japanese American community to assist Tohoku’s recovery. The heart of relief efforts is Kizuna, the resilient strength of emotional ties and bonds our community shares as a result from working together. We will feature a collection of short stories by the Japanese American community in the Bay Area and Japan, where they share their firsthand experiences upon the Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster, and how they came together with the spirit of Kizuna to help the Tohoku region in the aftermath.

You are invited to attend the premiere of “Reflections of Tohoku” on Monday, May 31, 2021, starting at 1:00 P.M. PT. Let’s celebrate the finale of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month together, with this remembrance to honor all those affected by the Tohoku Earthquake worldwide.

Support the Festival

Our Festival is produced by Sakura Matsuri, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, and entirely organized by volunteers.  We rely on the generosity of our corporate and community sponsors, grants, participants, and donations.

Please support us with your tax-deductible contribution, so we may continue to provide a cultural showcase for our participants, build capacity to explore ways to support our participants during this crisis and as we prepare for next year’s programming.  All donations go directly to support free admission to the Festival for everyone.

Meet the Speakers

The Festival is grateful for all of our speakers for sharing their personal recollections to contribute to this documentary. We are inspired by all of the contributions made by our Festival members, greater Japanese American community and friends in Japan, and we are hopeful that our Kizuna, our bonds of community and friendship, will continue to support Tohoku as the region continues to recover from this natural disaster.

Arisa Hiroi
2010 NCCBF Queen
Noodles for Nippon Fundraiser, Founder
Facebook @nakayoshiyoungprofessionals, Instagram/Twitter @nakayoshiyp

Arisa Hiroi and a few friends from Nakayoshi Young Professionals got together as Friends of Fukushima to start an annual fundraiser, Noodles for Nippon: Udon Fundraiser for Children in Fukushima. Friends of Fukushima organized this event from 2013-2017, raising necessary funds for the rebuilding of 堀川愛生園 Horikawa Aiseien Children’s Home in Fukushima after the Tohoku Earthquake.

Dai Fujita
株式会社 鳥藤本店 Torifuji-Honten Co., Ltd. in Fukushima, Owner
Facebook @hamadori.ramen

Dai Fujita is the owner of Torifuji Honten Co, Ltd, and this company made bentos for employees in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. When the earthquake hit, he went immediately to the plant to ensure everybody was safe, and made bentos for evacuation zones. Dai made a new specialty ramen in the hopes of garnering more tourists to Fukushima, and this Hamadori Ramen recently won a prize for “Best Omiyage.”

Dianne Fukami
Bridge Media, Inc., Executive Producer
Facebook @StoriesFromTohoku, Instagram/Twitter @StoriesTohoku

Dianne Fukami served as the 2010-2012 Board President at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC), which led the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Our 2011 Festival committees partnered with NJERF to host multiple fundraising events, and this became the largest Japanese American community based relief fund in the U.S. In 2013, Dianne co-directed and co-produced Stories from Tohoku, featuring stories of resilience and strength, a deeper understanding of Japanese traditional values, and an opportunity to witness deep and enduring connections between Americans of Japanese ancestry and the people of Tohoku, Japan.

Jana Katsuyama
KTVU FOX 2 News, Reporter
Facebook @NewsJana, Instagram @jana.katsuyama, Twitter @JanaKTVU

Jana Katsuyama is a dedicated NCCBF supporter who emceed our Queen Program Night for over a decade and emceed the second weekend of our 2021 Festival. Jana has worked with the KTVU news team since 2007, reporting for the Ten O’Clock News. On the day of the Tohoku Earthquake, Jana received a request to fly to Japan to cover this event. She was unable to report directly from the Tohoku region due to the nuclear disaster, but she interviewed Bay Area based individuals living in Tokyo to share their stories, including Former Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, Hiroshi Inomata.

Ken Takeda & Kiyomi Takeda
NCCBF, Board/Executive Committee Members
Bay Area め組ジャパン メイクハッピー Megumi Japan Group, Volunteers
Facebook @nakayoshiyoungprofessionals, Instagram/Twitter @nakayoshiyp

Ken and Kiyomi Takeda serve as inspiring Japanese American community leaders in Japantown and our Festival, and we admire their enthusiasm and caring hearts for our community. Kiyomi currently serves as the Sakura Matsuri, Inc. Board Secretary, Festival Advisor, and Development Chair, and Ken serves in the Organizing Committee for the SF Taru Mikoshi Ren. Maco Nishida introduced a volunteer opportunity with Megumi Japan to Nakayoshi Young Professionals, and Ken and Kiyomi traveled to Miyagi Prefecture to help clean up in affected areas and make connections with their communities. They also share their trip experience in Nichi Bei Weekly article, Reflections from Ishinomaki.

Maco Nishida
SF Taru Mikoshi Ren
Bay Area め組ジャパン メイクハッピー Megumi Japan Group, Leader
Facebook @megumijapan.mekehappy, Twitter @megumi_japan

Maco Nishida is an artist and SF Taru Mikoshi Ren member based in San Francisco, and she visited Japan for an art exhibition at the time the Tohoku Earthquake happened. Maco immediately traveled to this region to look for ways to help, wherein she found the recovery efforts of nonprofit Megumi Japan. When she returned to San Francisco, she decided she wanted to lead volunteer efforts from the Bay Area, making multiple trips to Japan to help in its restoration. Maco continues her relief efforts for areas in need, inspired by the stories told by and connections she made with survivors of natural disasters.

Michael Sera
Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj), President – Board of Directors
Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @JAMsjOfficial

JAMsj has hosted many events to raise awareness and funds for the affected Tohoku regions, partnering with photojournalist Darrell Miho, Tohoku schools and other organizations to share the journey of recovery, most recently JAMsj Tohoku 10th Year Anniversary Event. Michael Sera personally made visits to Tohoku to meet and learn the stories of local residents and small business owners, and he was touched by their positive outlook and resilient nature to overcome this disaster. He is also a strong advocate for connecting our Japantowns (San Francisco, San Jose, Little Tokyo), to support our Japanese American communities during current times.

Reverend Kiko Tatedera & Mami Tatedera
曹洞宗日米山桑港寺 Soto Mission of San Francisco – Sokoji, Former Reverend
Facebook/Instagram @sokojisf

Kiko Tatedera served as the Reverend at Sokoji in San Francisco for years, and at the time of the earthquake, he immediately returned to Miyagi as his family temple was torn from where it resided on the mountainside since 400 AD, and helped his father with restoration efforts and memorial services. Reverend Tatedera was very touched by the Bay Area and Los Angeles communities coming together to help purchase and transport essential supplies like batteries and flashlights to Japan. His wife, Mami stayed in San Francisco to continue Sokoji’s activities, including fundraising efforts in our 2011 Festival. Reverend Tatedera currently serves as Jushoku (Chief Priest) at 円満寺 Enmanji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi.

Riku Sato
OECD Tohoku School Project, Leader

Riku Sato was a middle school student in Fukushima at the time of the earthquake, and this experience motivated him to work with students for the future of Tohoku. He was selected as one of the leaders of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Tohoku School Project, in which 100 middle and high school students engaged in project-based learning and produced a Tohoku recovery presentation in Paris. Riku currently works in Tokyo and based upon his own experiences, he leads efforts to rethink evacuation drills in schools at Japan. He hopes that instead of focusing on Tohoku as merely a disaster area, he would like to see it being celebrated for the amazing culture and food it has to offer.

Takanari Yamashita
JETRO SF, Chief Executive Director
Restoration Efforts in Tohoku, Former Head
Facebook @JETROSanFrancisco @jetrousa @jetro.usa.sake, Instagram @premium.sake, Twitter @JETROSF @JETROUSA

In 2017, Takanari Yamashita was assigned as the Chief Director of Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters at the Cabinet Office. His primary goal was to lift evacuation orders issued by the Japanese government to prevent radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As he navigated the disaster areas, he worked with local government and residents on decontamination and reopening of supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and railroads, with the hope of creating new job opportunities and rebuilding a safe environment for residents to return. In November 2019, Takanari became the Chief Executive Director of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) San Francisco Office, and their new initiatives include inviting robotics development collaborations with Fukushima Robot Test Field and expanding national award-winning Fukushima sake overseas. JETRO recently hosted Sake and non-Japanese food pairings with Bay Area local restaurants, retailers, importers, and nine sake breweries from Fukushima.

Takashi Oda
Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, Former Employee

In 2005-2008, Takashi Oda worked at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, and he enjoyed working with local community organizers in Northern California and attending community events like our Festival. He was a post-doctoral fellow in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake, and he was grateful that his family living in affected areas were safe, though his childhood home in Iwaki suffered damage that took almost two years to repair. Takashi is a strong advocate for educating the community on this natural disaster, to value the concept of 伝承 densho, passing on stories and lessons to future generations. As Deputy Director General at Miyagi University of Education in Sendai, he trains educators and helped establish a campus-wide learning institute for disaster education and school safety. 

Takeno Suzuki
2005 NCCBF Co-Chair
Miyagi Prefectural Government, Employee

Takeno Suzuki grew up in San Francisco Japantown, dancing and playing the koto at the Festival from three years old, and eventually became a Festival Co-Chair alongside Allen Okamoto in 2005. She moved to Sendai with her family and works at the Miyagi Prefectural Government, and she recalled a very strong and prolonged earthquake at her workplace. On the same day, she remembered walking her young sons back home in the snow, as electricity and public transit were not available, worrying about their safety, and dealing with the aftershocks for days afterwards. Takeno witnessed the collaborative efforts of U.S. troops and Japan Self-Defense Force in clearing debris, reuniting families, and building temporary housing. As towns have been rebuilding since then, she is grateful that the heart and soul of the communities remain strong, and she encourages everyone around the world to enjoy the spirit and hospitality of Tohoku. Our Festival is thankful for Takeno, who wrote an urgent letter to 2011 Festival Co-Chairs, Allen Okamoto and Richard Hashimoto to ask our community to help, and our Festival Committees pivoted the theme to bring awareness and relief to Tohoku.

Yasuhiko Niida
仁井田本家 Niida-Honke Co., Inc. Sake Brewery in Fukushima, Owner
Facebook @仁井田本家, Instagram @niidahonke, Twitter @maki_niida

Yasuhiko Niida is the 18th generation Kuramoto (sake brewery owner) and Toji (master brewer) of Niida Honke, a family owned sake brewery founded in 1711 and was celebrating its 300 year anniversary when the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster hit the region. Yasuhiko was faced with many challenges, worrying about his family’s safety and navigating obstacles surrounding the food safety stigma in Fukushima. We admire Yasuhiko’s perseverance in running this family business since then, and he values his connections with local rice farmers and supporters to adapt to whatever barriers come their way.

Yuki Nishimura
2019 NCCBF Queen
NCCBF PR Marketing, Committee Member

Yuki Nishimura grew up in Sendai, capital city of Miyagi Prefecture in Northern Japan, and she shares her fond memories of attending Tanabata Matsuri before and after the earthquake. The Festival is grateful to Yuki for her diligent outreach and thoughtful interviews with all of the special guests in this documentary.