DEDICATION AND PATIENCE: Understanding the disciplines of naginata

Naginata, a type of Japanese spear, has a rich history within Japan’s martial arts, and has historically been known for its abundance of female practitioners. “The naginata is favored by women because the long staff uses the whole body and centrifugal force,” said Miyako Tanaka, kyoshi (master and teacher) and vice president of The Northern […]

Urasenke Foundation teaches tea ceremony — and appreciation of each moment

A woman enters a tatami room with slow, measured steps and approaches an iron pot of water in a hearth sunken into the floor, set to boil on pieces of charcoal. She slowly sets out supplies, unwraps the tea powder and meticulously wipes the teacup and bamboo scoop, all in a steady silence, pausing meaningfully […]

CARRYING ON A TRADITION: The history of the festival’s portable shrines

Every year, one of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s biggest highlights is the taru mikoshi, one of the entrants in the Grand Parade. The mikoshi is a portable Shinto shrine, which a deity is believed to inhabit. Legend has it that shaking the shrine spreads its blessing. The San Francisco Taru Mikoshi Ren leads […]

Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen candidates announced

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival unveiled its 2012 Queen candidates and presented a festival preview at San Francisco’s Japantown on March 10. The yearly event, set to take place over two weekends in April, will crown the new queen on April 14 at the annual Queen Program. Benh Nakajo, program chairperson, called the introduction […]

THE HEART OF KANJI: Healthy Future

健康 (Kenko) means “health,” which I explained in my Oct. 20-26, 2011 column. 未来 (Mirai) means “future.” 未 (mi) means “not ripe yet,” and consists of two parts. The top horizontal line represents fruit that is not yet ripe and the bottom line represents a tree. 来 (rai or kuru) means “come,” and consists of […]

NorCal community raises relief funds for Northern Japan at Cherry Blossom Festival

Joining communities all over the world in taking action, San Francisco’s Japanese-speaking and Japanese American communities have been using art, food and other aspects of their culture to raise funds for the relief efforts following the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear crisis. As it did to aid the Japan during previous times of […]

Otagaisama: We help each other

I’m not an expert on Japanese culture and customs, but as I observe what’s happening in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami, I am confident that the country and its people will eventually recover and rebuild their lives because of one key concept and way of life that is deeply embedded in the Japanese spirit: “Otagaisama” (helping […]

ORIGAMI, THE ART: Supporting the community and embracing a wider audience

Since the first Festival, the Mihara family — owners of Paper Tree, a paper specialty store — have offered free origami instruction as part of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. The Mihara sisters, Linda and Vicky, have fond memories of teaching children to fold paper at the Festival — starting when they were kids […]

STRONG, GENTLE AND BEAUTIFUL: Judo master Keiko Fukuda’s legacy

2011 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Co-Grand Marshal Keiko Fukuda photo courtesy of Yuriko Gamo Romer   Despite being the highest ranking female judo master in the world, Keiko Fukuda is relentlessly modest. This year, at age 98, she was honored at the National Japanese American Historical Society awards dinner, and has been selected as […]

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: The Festival, through the eyes of the Parade’s voice

Since the early 1970s, George Yamasaki Jr. has been the voice of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. As emcee, Yamasaki narrates the Parade action as it runs its course — and has had plenty of experience thinking on his feet as floats stall or the order of participants changes without notice. Yamasaki, who […]

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