Tag Archives: california

Cherry Blossom Festival

I went to the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood yesterday. It’s held every year on two weekends in April.

Of course, it’s only been 5 weeks since the disaster in Japan. Maybe the organizers were not sure about whether to have this fun event this year. However, it’s really important to the Japanese and Japanese-American community here. For example, it helps Japanese and Japanese-American kids living here learn about and participate in Japanese culture. It’s also really important to the businesses in the area. So the festival was held as usual. However, you couldn’t forget about the disaster: there was fundraising everywhere. I thought that was good.

Anyway, here are some of my photos.

Getting ready
We walked through downtown on our way to Japantown. That’s where the parade starts, so some of the people who were going to be in the parade were eating lunch and getting ready.

Floats, waiting
Here are some of the empty floats. The one with the dolls is a special one to support Japan and encourage donations. It was really big and beautiful.

We stand with you
This is during the parade. I don’t know what group it is.

SF Taiko group
There are several Japanese drumming groups that perform during the festival or in the parade. They’re really popular.

"Cable car"
This isn’t a real cable car, but it looks like one. They’re tossing candy to people in the crowd. That’s common in American parades.

Dancers
These dancers are from a Californian Japanese dance school. Both small children and older people danced all the way from downtown–about 1 mile/1.5 kilometers away. Dancers, cheerleaders, etc. are common in American parades.

Keiko Fukuda
Ms. Keiko Fukuda was the Honorary Grand Marshall (leader) of the parade. She’s a famous judoka (also see this video about her). The mayor and the Japanese consul were there too…last year we saw Japanese-American actor George Takei (Sulu from “Star Trek) and the Japanese ambassador to the US.

Omikoshi
These Boy Scouts have a small omikoshi (Japanese portable shrine). There’s a really big one at the end of the parade, but I didn’t stay this year.

Rock
During the rest of the festival, there are outdoor stages with music. This band from Japan, Soulit, performed on a float during the parade, too! They sounded pretty good.

Religious harmony
This is some kind of Japanese/American inter-faith religious group…They look pretty interesting, don’t they?

Cosplay float
In the last few years, the cosplay group has been popular. This float has the best costumes, and the other participants walk. (You can see another photo at Flickr.)

Cosplay for charity
This participant carried a sign encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross by text.

Taiyaki
During the festival, the Japantown mall is really busy. There’s a coffeeshop that always sells their own special taiyaki (like a filled waffle), but they must sell hundreds during the festival. Of course, I had one. I also had mitarashi dango (a kind of sweet rice dumpling on a stick) at a tea shop. My husband had shaved ice.

Washiningyo parade
There are several displays of arts and crafts during the festival, including origami, cloth-covered wood dolls, and these dolls made of paper. There are also displays of bonsai, antique swords, ikebana (flower-arranging) and stones. They also have demonstrations of martial arts (kendo, kyudo, naginata, judo, karate, aikido, etc.), various kinds of dancing and singing, musical performances on the shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen, and they even play karuta (a kind of card game). Some of the people doing these things are not Japanese or Japanese-American at all.

There are other things to do, too. There is one outdoor area where people sell things like t-shirts with original designs, jewelry, and handmade soap. These things have to be related to Asian culture in some way. There’s another area where community groups like Buddhist churches and bilingual kindergartens sell food. You can buy “sakura popcorn” (rice crackers, seaweed, and popcorn), onigiri (riceballs), takoyaki (with no octopus for people who are scared), and lots of other things. I couldn’t take a good photo of these areas.

If you ever have a chance to visit the festival, I recommend it. It’s a wonderful combination of Japanese and American cultures.

You can see more photos from this year on Flickr, including some amazing origami, more cosplay, and a model of Osaka Castle.

If you have any questions about anything, just ask!

P. S. Where are the cherry blossoms? Well, the name is mostly symbolic–it’s just an image. There aren’t many cherry trees in Japantown. It’s in the middle of the city! Also, by late April most of our cherry blossoms are gone, except the double-blossom (yaezakura) type. But there’s good news! I noticed that more double-cherry-blossom trees have been planted in Japantown recently, so maybe next year…

Orchard

An Early Spring Walk

A few days ago, I went to a special park in my town. This park is a kind of garden around an old house. (I didn’t get a good photo of the house.) I like walking around in the garden. There are different flowers in every season.

Gazebo

You can see a gazebo behind the flowers. It’s is a nice place to sit and look at the flowers. Many parks and some big yards have gazebos.

Orchard

In the 1800s, there were a lot of farms and orchards (tree/fruit tree farms) in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of the orchards in this county are gone now, because we now mostly have cities with houses and offices. (A county is an official area. It’s smaller than a state. Each state in the US has several counties.) However, in the back of this park, there’s a small area with a few short, old trees. These trees are the last few trees from the last orchard in our county. The photo above is of a few branches on one of the trees. It looks like a cherry tree, but I’m not sure.

Blossom

Here’s a close-up of the blossoms on another tree in the main garden. I think these flowers were past their peak (already beyond their best point), but they’re still pretty. It had rained recently, as you can see. (Because the San Francisco Bay Area has a Mediterranean-style climate, we only have rain between around November and April.)

Neighborhood

This is a neighborhood near the park. You can see green hills in the distance. These hills don’t become green until wintertime here. That was hard for me to get used to when I moved here!

How is the weather where you are?
Is it still too cold to take a walk, or is the weather already nice?

Halloween 2010

This year I was really busy during October. I wasn’t able to plan a Halloween party. It’s too bad, because I love having Halloween parties.

Here are some photos from a couple of years ago.


Here are some small lanterns I put outside my place. We usually put decorations outside our homes as well as inside.


In the front is a candle decoration that I made. On the right is a pumpkin that has not been carved yet. On the left is what was inside a pumpkin. That pumpkin has already been carved into a jack-o’lantern.


You can see some of the snacks that we had at our party. (No, we’re not good at making sushi!) You can also see party favors in little bags.

Anyway, I’m not having a party tonight or tomorrow. But tonight we visited a special Halloween event that our city has.

There’s an old building here. It used to be part of a rich person’s house. Now it’s only used once a year for a “haunted house”! I think about 75 people were in line. It costs $3, and the money is given to local charities.


You can see just a few of the booths with carnival games and Halloween items for sale. The games are similar to festival games in other countries.


My favorite part: caramel apples! I always get one that’s covered in chopped peanuts. These are made right there by volunteers. They taste so good! The apples are a little bit tart, and the nuts are nutty, crunchy, and a little salty. So it’s not as sweet as it looks.

Lots of little kids and a few adults go to this event in costume. The volunteers who work there have fun, and my money is given to charity. I really enjoy going there every year.

I hope you have a great Halloween, or a great October 31st if you aren’t interested in Halloween!

P. S. Enter the contest! It’s so easy–just share your ideas with us! Only 2 people have entered so far…your chances are good!

Continue reading

Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was my seventh wedding anniversary. My husband and I got married in 2003 in San Francisco.

Wedding Day
Wedding Day

This year, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an expensive dinner or expensive presents. However, we had a nice time. We packed a picnic and went to a park near the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We went shopping the day before at Trader Joe’s for our picnic. We bought some good cheese, spicy salami, crackers, nectarines, chocolate, and Hansen’s sodas. (Hansen’s sodas are all-natural sodas–they’re really good.)

While we ate, we could see the water, birds, and small planes landing nearby. The scenery was really beautiful. After we ate, we took a walk.

Then we went to a game store called Game Kastle. They sell board games, role-playing games, card games, and so on. (They don’t sell video games.) The games they sell are mostly unusual and interesting ones. Of course, they also sell famous games, like the Pokemon card game. We bought one game, but we haven’t played it yet.

After that, we went to two bookstores that are right next to each other. One bookstore sells new books, and the other one sells used books. The secondhand book shop has a big selection of non-English books, language-learning books, ESL books, etc. I had a coupon, but I only found one book that I wanted! Oh, well. At the other bookstore, I found a book I thought my husband would like. It was on sale! I bought it while my husband wasn’t looking and gave it to him as an anniversary present.

We went to one other bookstore in a nearby town and found one more book to buy. The clerk at that shop was really friendly. The shop also sold these cute hand puppets

Finally, we went to a Japanese restaurant
called Hatcho for dinner. This restaurant is not very expensive and you can order a lot of things individually (ala carte). Their menu is very interesting. We tried several things we had never eaten before. The restaurant was quiet, and the food was really good.

I guess that wasn’t really a typical anniversary celebration. If people imagine an anniversary celebration, they usually imagine something like an expensive restaurant dinner, flowers, dancing, and a gift of jewelry. On the other hand, I think it is normal for people our age to create our own celebrations. We want events and gifts that are meaningful to us. My husband and I are geeky and enjoy food. So a day full of bookstores, games, and eating makes sense for us. It matches our personalities.

It was nice to spend time with my husband, just the two of us. However, for our tenth anniversary, I think I would like to have a party and invite our friends and family.

Here are the places we went yesterday, if you’d like to see them:

Palo Alto Baylands park
Game Kastle
BookBuyers (Photos of BookBuyers)
Books Inc.
Leigh’s Favorite Books
Hatcho

What kinds of celebrations do you enjoy? What do you like to do for your wedding anniversary, your birthday, etc.? Is it different from what your husband, wife, parents, or friends like to do?

Where I’ve Lived

Today’s post is just a little bit about me. It’s not as interesting as baby squirrels, I think…


View Where I’ve Lived in a larger map

Both of my parents are from California, but I was born in a small town in Missouri. Missouri is a state near the middle of the US. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The weather is kind of like Okayama, Japan, but the town I lived in is colder in the winter, and not as rainy in the summer. Compared to Pusan, Korea, the weather is warmer in the summer (but still not as rainy), and almost the same in the winter. (You can compare weather at Weather.com’s comparison site, but they don’t have information for every city outside the US. Wikipedia has information, too.) The town I was born in is very small–only about 12,500 people live there.

When I was little, we moved to Alabama, North Carolina, and then Kansas. This was because of my dad’s work.

Finally, we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. I lived there for about 12 years, and I went to college there. It had about 50,000 people then, but it’s bigger now.

All of these states have similar weather. There four seasons including a spring with pretty flowers, a hot and humid summer, an autumn with beautifully colored leaves, and a cool or cold winter. Sometimes there are bad storms. These states have a few big cities, but there’s a lot of countryside. You can see a lot of farms and natural areas.

Now I live in Fremont, California. It’s kind of near San Jose and San Francisco. The population of Fremont is about 220,000, but our city is next to a lot of other cities. It’s part of the San Francisco Bay Area (Wikipedia link — or Simple English version), which has more than 7 million people. The weather is totally different. This part of California has a special climate, which is similar to the area near the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll explain it more sometime, but for me, it was really strange at first!

Anyway, I’ve lived in California since 2000, although I spent 3 months in Taipei, Taiwan.

Where have you lived? You can tell me in the comments. I’d like to know.

If you have any questions about where I’ve lived, please feel free to ask.



Notes
Similar (adj.): Almost the same, very close. Ex. “That painting looks similar to the one we saw before.” (A more casual way to say it is “That painting looks like the one we saw before.”) “Some people say that song was copied from another band, but I don’t think the songs are very similar.”
Humid (adj.): This is when the air has a lot of water in it. The noun is “humidity.” Ex.: “It’s hotter in the desert than in the rain forest, but the rain forest is more humid.” “I try not to use my air conditioner, but when it’s hot and humid, I turn it on.”
Climate (n.): Average weather conditions and patterns (of a place). Weather is what’s happening this week; climate is what happens over years. Ex.: “Italy’s climate is perfect for growing grapes.” “She’s from a country with a hot climate, and she’s not used to snow.”

WonderCon

A small part of WonderCon
A small part of WonderCon (click for bigger photos)

On Saturday, my husband, my friend, and I went to San Francisco. We went to a convention called WonderCon. This convention is for fans of comic books, animation, movies, TV shows, and so on. Last year, about 32,000 people went to the convention–women, men, kids, older people, etc. It’s not the biggest convention like this, but it’s pretty big.

More of WonderCon (sorry about the glass)
More of WonderCon (sorry about the glass)

Every year, there are a lot of things to do at the convention. In the Exhibition Hall, you can buy all kinds of comics. Often, you can buy the comics from the artist or writer and talk to him or her. You can buy paintings and drawings from artists. You can buy books about comics, history, and computer graphics. You can talk to publishers and ask them questions. You can meet actors and other famous people from TV shows and movies. (You usually have to pay to get their autographs.)

On the left, a friend who's an artist. On the right, another friend and two more members of Legion Fantastique.
On the left, a friend who's an artist. On the right, another friend and two more members of Legion Fantastique.

Look at the photo above. The three people wearing costumes are looking at the original comic book art that is for sale by an artist. (They are members of a group called Legion Fantastique. If you’re in California, you can see them at the Great Pan-Kinetic Exposition in August.) Lots of people wear costumes and walk around the convention. You can usually take their photos if you ask them.

Some people work hard on their costumes
Some people work hard on their costumes

Another reason that people go to WonderCon is because you can go to presentations and panels (group presentations). At these, people talk about topics like how to make costumes, how to teach reading using comic books, religion in fantasy movies, and so on. Actors, writers, and other people are also on panels. Sometimes new movies or TV shows are shown for the first time.

Who's on the escalator?
Who's on the escalator?

We had a lot of fun, and we’ll probably go next year. There’s “something for everyone!”

Have you ever gone to a convention? What kind of convention would you like to go to? You can answer in the comments!


Notes

“Convention” (n.): A big meeting of people on one topic. It might be for people who work in one kind of business, like web designers. Other conventions are for fans of something, like Japanese animation, trains, growing roses, or comic books. People often travel a long way to go to the convention. Conventions are usually held in convention centers or hotels. “Convention” comes from the verb “convene,” which means “come together.” “Conferences” (n.) are almost the same, except that word is usually used for academic (teaching and researching) conferences–teachers, scientists, historians, etc. “Conference” comes from the verb “confer,” which means “talk” or “discuss.”

A “publisher” (n.) or publishing company is a person or a company that makes books, comic books, etc. A publisher isn’t a printer or a bookstore. A writer sends her book to a publisher and hopes that the publisher will accept it. The publisher agrees to buy it and pays the writer. The publisher pays a printing company to print the book. The publisher sends the book to bookstores. The bookstores sell the books. The publisher, bookstores, and writer share the money from selling the book. (The author doesn’t get very much…)

“Autograph” (n./v.): If a famous person writes his or her name on something, their written name (signature) is an autograph. When you write your name on a check, letter, etc., it’s just a signature (n.). If a famous person signs something, it’s an autograph.

If I didn’t explain something, please ask in the comments!

Wildflowers

On Saturday, I went to a “Wildflower Festival” at a park. It’s a really big park. It’s not a national park like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, and it’s not a state park, but it’s bigger than a city park. It’s called a “regional park.” Spring is the best time for wildflowers, and I wanted to see some. There were a lot of activities at the festival. In the main area, there were some tents where people could learn about nature. Children could play games and make things. From that area, people could go on hikes with park guides.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

I saw a lot of wildflowers on the hike! The orange one is California’s “state flower,” the California poppy.

Our guide showing us something
Our guide showing us something

A lot of people, including families and older people, went on our hike. I heard a lot of different languages being spoken. It was nice! Our guide was very friendly. She knew a lot about flowers and nature. She showed us a lot of flowers and told us how the flowers worked. It was really interesting. The hike lasted about 90 minutes. I was tired at the end, but happy.

Can you see the birds?
Can you see the birds?

This park is really green and has a lot of hills. (This picture is just a small part of the park.) If you’re in good shape, you can see some wonderful views. I was a little sick last year, so I’m kind of out of shape right now. However, I hiked for about 2.5 hours altogether. (Go me!) After I was done, I went back to the main area and sat down. I watched a band play American, Scottish, and French-Canadian folk music. It was fun! When my feet stopped hurting, I walked to my car and drove home.

Are there any places to go hiking near where you live? Do you like to go hiking?



Notes

“Wildflowers” are flowers that grow naturally. “Wild” means natural and not controlled by humans.

A “region” (n.) is a big area. It might include several places. For example, the Tohoku 東北 region of Japan includes six prefectures. I guess regional parks are called “regional” (adj.) because they include different cities and counties, but they’re not state parks.

“Guide” can be a noun or a verb. When it’s a person noun, it means someone who shows or explains things to other people. For example, a tour guide leads a group of people who are traveling, and tells them about what they are seeing.

“In good shape” is an idiom. It doesn’t mean “a nice body.” It means that you are healthy, so you have enough energy for things like hiking, walking a long way, carrying heavy things, etc. You can also just say “in shape.” (Sometimes we use it to mean that a thing is ready or working properly, too.) The opposite is “out of shape.” People often say “I’m out of shape!” when they get tired too quickly. (We don’t usually use this to say that a thing is not working correctly, though.)

“Go [x]!” To cheer for somebody, you can say “Go [name]!” or even “Go you!” to a friend. This is like “Fighting!” in Korean, and so on. And yes, people sometimes say or write “Today I studied Japanese for four hours! Go me!” or “I got 100% on my quiz! I was so surprised! Go me!” This is very casual and sounds like something a younger person would say. In this case, it’s a combination of encouragement (supporting someone to continue doing something) and praise/congratulations (telling someone they did a good job). When you shout “Go, team!” at a baseball game, then it might be just encouragement if they haven’t done anything yet.

If you have a question about something that I didn’t explain, please comment!

It’s a Long Road

I’m sorry I haven’t posted this summer. I had a health problem at the beginning of the summer. I’m getting better, but I had to concentrate on that for a while. Here’s something that has no words but is very interesting:

These two guys drove from San Francisco to Washington, D. C.–all the way across the United States. That’s about 3000 miles or 4900 km, 48 hours of driving if you never stop! They had a camera that took 1 photo every 10 seconds. They put all the photos together to make a video. (That’s called “time-lapse photography”–you can find some beautiful videos on YouTube if you search for “time lapse Grand Canyon” “time lapse Yosemite” etc. Try it!)

By watching the video, you can travel all the way across North American in 4 minutes! It might give you a headache to travel that fast…After you watch the video, you can click on it to go to the YouTube page. Look in the information box to the right, and you can find a link to a map of the route that they took across the US.

Does anything surprise you in the video? Did you see fewer cities than you expected? More trees? Lots of different kinds of scenery? (I think I saw a rainbow!) I’ve never driven this route myself, but I’ve driven across the southern part of the US. When you drive across the southern part, you see more desert. Here is some of that area (not time-lapse; regular video).

I hope your study of English is going well! Comment if you have questions you would like me to try to answer.

Take a Peek at the San Francisco Bay Area…Present Tense

Do you remember the present tense? (she walks, I read, he tells me, they buy some coffee, etc.) It’s probably one of the first things you learned in English. One place where you will often find the simple present tense is in captions–the explanatory writing that goes with a photo in a newspaper, magazine, etc.

image of newspaper from artvex.com

In journalistic style, the captions are usually written in present and present continuous/progressive tense, as though the event is happening as you look at the picture. Of course, the actions have already occurred, so past tense may seem more logical. However, you can think of the photo’s events as “frozen in time.” If you study academic writing in English, you learn to do the same thing when referring to other writings (Dr. Krashen writes that reading and listening are important, etc.).

Through the Lens is a feature of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s website. Every week, images from around the Bay Area are posted, with captions. The captions show a mix of tenses depending on the situation. For example, in this week’s Through the Lens, we have these captions posted:

If you’re interested in the San Francisco area, you can bookmark Through the Lens and get a regular look at life here.