Thousands of people flooded Post Street between Fillmore and Gough for the opening weekend of the 40th Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival last Sunday. The first thing any visitor to Japantown will notice about their celebration of the blooming of the cherry blossoms is how tame it is in comparison to other public parties in the city. While an event like the Bay to Breakers is a celebration of our city's special ability to integrate debauchery and running, the Cherry Blossom Festival was a celebration of Japanese culture and showcased a far more wholesome set of skills. On the main stage, children performed a few basic karate manuvers to the delight of their parents and one onlooker who clearly was just sticking around to see if the kids were really going to start brawling. They didn't. In fact, there would not be any shenanigans. The freak quotient was well below the standards I've come to expect. That said, I did manage to find a grown man dressed as what I can only assume is a Power Ranger.
The defining characteristic of the event came in the form of the event's sponsors whose white tents lined Post and forced visitors to run a blocks long gauntlet of barkers who harangued passers-by to provide them with personal information in exchange for low quality freebies. Not even cries of "I'm walkin' here!" in a heavily affected Brooklyn accent could ward them off. Their presence varied from obnoxious to creepy, with one booth promising to turn your eight-year-old into a modeling superstar.
For the kiddies who want to act their age, there was the Children's Village which provided the young ones with a "jump house." A term I managed to discover by googling "inflatable jumping around thing," which I would argue goes much further in explaining its purpose. Based on the miserable faces of the children leaving the General Mills-sponsored inflatable jumping around thing, the event was of a dud for children of all ages.
That said, and in fairness to the event's organizers, I may have been the wrong weekend to happen upon these particular goings-on. The real show takes place on April 22 at 1 pm with a parade from City Hall into the Western Addition which will feature, among other things, a sake barrel shrine float which will be carried by an estimated 100 people as the festivities make their way into Japantown. However, despite what we might expect from the other street festivals, I don't suspect they'll be cracking that barrel open once they arrive on the scene. It is the prerogative of the organizers to have a family-friendly affair, and they have exercised it. You've been warned.