Tag Archives: san francisco

Cherry Blossom Festival

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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…

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!

A Poem That Reminds Me of San Francisco

I stayed at a hotel in San Francisco this weekend. From the hotel room on the fourteenth floor, I could see the fog come in. In the San Francisco Bay Area, fog comes in from the ocean in the evening. The fog usually stays until morning, and then it goes back to the ocean. It helps keep us cool! I love the fog.

Here is a famous poem about fog:

Fog
by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Does it make sense?

The fog comes in silently, like a cat. The fog covers the city for a while. (To “sit on [one's] haunches” is to squat [if you're a human]. Just picture a cat sitting there.) Then it leaves.

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.