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SF Japantown festival
SF Japantown festival
Original photo by Sierra Kushi
Life > Experiences

A SPRINGTIME MUST-DO IN JAPANTOWN

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

For two weekends (April 13-14 and April 20-21), the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival was held in San Francisco’s Japantown. It’s a festival that “showcas[es] the vibrant colors and grace of the Japanese culture, and the rich heritage and diversity of the Japanese American community.” I was curious about what was entailed in this festival, so I joined a few members of UC Berkeley’s Nikkei Student Union for a fun day of eating and shopping!

For those who’ve never visited Japantown, it’s a historically Japanese and Japanese American community of businesses and stores in the Bay Area. I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Japantown because it reminds me of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. I also love visiting because it makes me feel closer to my Japanese American heritage. However, this time, it was a little different because there were lines of booths in and out of the mall selling food, handmade goods, and more!

The line for the food stands looked too long, so we made our way inside to the restaurants inside the mall. We ate at Osakaya, a restaurant that offered a variety of different Japanese foods such as ramen, sushi, donburi (rice bowl), and more! As a fan of unagi (freshwater eel), I had to get their rice bowl topped with both unagi and beef! We all enjoyed our time as we conversed over delicious food. If you’re ever in Japantown and need a place to eat, try Osakaya because there’s something for everyone here!

SF Japantown festival
Original photo by Sierra Kushi

After eating, we stopped by the Peace Plaza to watch some performances! We got to watch the post-collegiate taiko group, Jiten Daiko! My friend and I were interested in this performance especially since we’re taking a DeCal for taiko! In case you didn’t know, taiko refers to any drum in Japanese, but here in the United States, we commonly say “taiko” when referring to the Japanese performing art of drumming. Jiten Daiko did a great job and we were all left impressed by the strength and energy they poured into every song!

SF Japantown festival
Original photo by Sierra Kushi

Throughout the day, there was an abundance of vendors selling cute, handmade products. I saw the cutest crochet stuffed animals, cool prints from artists, and way too many pieces of pretty jewelry to purchase! I believe our little group spent nearly thirty minutes or more trying to simply pick one necklace to buy. This one stand we visited had many beautiful necklaces and earrings for sale — we couldn’t go wrong with whatever we chose! While I personally haven’t watched a lot of anime myself, there were plenty of booths to excite anime and manga fans! There were also too many tables selling goods with Sanrio characters on them; I held back in order to save money, but I was fighting the urge to buy anything with Cinnamoroll on it!

After continuous browsing, we had to stop and get a sweet treat! We went to Cafe Maiko for matcha ice cream and drinks! I got a matcha coffee latte to rejuvenate myself and I loved it! We definitely had to walk around after the matcha energized us, so we continued to browse around the mall and its many cute stores. Unfortunately, the actual sakura (Japanese word for cherry blossom) trees outside on the Peace Plaza weren’t in full bloom. There weren’t many actual blossoms to look at, but at least the beautiful pink flowers adorned every lane and corner of the mall!

SJ Japantown festival
Original photo by Sierra Kushi

The festival allowed us to immerse ourselves in Japantown and get a taste of Japanese culture. When I reflect on that day, all I can remember is how much fun I was having. It was one of those days in which I was truly living for the moment and enjoying the present day. Before coming to college, I attended a Buddhist church and that’s where I learned about how cherry blossoms are symbolic of life. In general, flowers in the Buddhist church represent impermanence in life. It reminds us to be appreciative of what we have or what we’re able to do as it’s common to feel stressed at the thought of what we don’t have.

I’m extremely grateful that I was able to go eat and shop with kind people. This day truly made my weekend, as there’s nothing better than the feeling of simply being happy in the present moment. I promise that if you go to the Cherry Blossom Festival next year, you won’t be disappointed!

Sierra Kushi

UC Berkeley '27

Sierra is a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley. She started writing for the Berkeley chapter in the Fall of 2023 and is currently serving as a Digital Editor in the Spring of 2024. Sierra has experience in writing and leadership. She may be undecided about her major, but she loves studying in the community that is UC Berkeley! She loves to write about personal experiences, books, and music. In her free time, you'll find her reading romance novels, hanging out with friends, or listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. You may run into her at a coffee shop or the bookstore.