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I went back to the festival to get the grilled duck hearts that were sold out last week. But I was not destined to taste them today (at time of writing, April 19th). The O Izakaya Lounge foodstand at the Hotel Kabuki did not have enough to serve them to the crowd so they offered chicken skins instead. Coated in a light batter and fried to golden crisps in the kitchen before being put on the outdoor grill for a light toasting, the crunchy skins were served with dainty wedges of lemon. This traditional Japanese snack was an unexpected first-time treat for me but I resolved to make yet another trip to Japantown to nosh on the duck hearts.

The parade arrived in Japantown soon after I finished my snack. I stood under a fir tree pruned into a bonsai outside the hotel for shade. It was very hot for San Francisco, reaching a recordbreaking 87 oF (30 oC). George Takei, the parade’s Grand Marshal was near the front of the procession. He gestured the Vulcan salute, to the delight of the huge crowd lining Post Street.

George Takei does the Vulcan salute in the Cherry Blossom Parade, San Francisco

George Takei does the Vulcan salute in the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

Dancers in kimonos parade down Post Street in JTown

Dancers in kimonos parade down Post Street in JTown

Taiko drums, politicians, diplomats, marching bands, martial art and dance troupes went by. And several floats carrying beauty queens. I have never seen an anime costume contingent before but this parade had one.

A contingent of anime costumes at the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, 2009.

A contingent of anime costumes at the S.F. Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, 2009

Ladies in kimonos on a parade float

Ladies in kimonos float by

The end of the parade was suitably raucous and festive with a a Shinto shrine stacked on a tower of sake barrels, guarded by three almost naked men . This shrine, the Taru Mikoshi, was carried by energetic men of all ethnicity, mostly in traditional Japanese garb such as hapi coats, and a few in fundoshi. the traditional diaper-like loincloth. The bold graphic patterns on the coats were a visual feast. Would love to have one myself.

Since circumstances do not allow me to do international travel now, I am grateful that a festival in my own hometown offers such a sensational show of Japanese culture and a much needed dose of joyful exuberance .

This is the first weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival at Japantown that continues next weekend. When I got there this afternoon, sunshine and a strong breeze which kept the the sky of clear of clouds provided fine Spring conditions for the event. My first stop was at the Peace Plaza to watch a few minutes of the martial arts demonstrations.

Peace Plaza tower and cherry tree in blossom

Peace Plaza tower and cherry tree in blossom

Martial arts demonstration at the Japantown Peace Plaza

Martial arts demonstration at the Japantown Peace Plaza

Then I went indoors into the Hotel Kabuki where meeting rooms were used for various demonstrations and exhibits: swords, traditional music, origami, paper dolls, and Ikebana. The Ikebana floral designs were breathtakingly beautiful and some were very unusual.

Ikebana floral design

Ikebana floral design

After an hour of flower arrangements, clever origami dinosaurs and spaceships, I came back out into the sunshine and made a beeline for the outdoor food stand featuring the chefs of the hotel’s O Izakaya Restaurant, who offered rather exotic grilled meats including duck hearts and tsukune (chicken meatballs). Unfortunately, the group ahead of me in line bought all those kebabs and I had to make do with walu. The skewer costing $4 held 3 cubes of the rich, moist and tender white fish alternating with 2 cubes of sweet, warm pineapple. A delicious combo.

Chef brushes skewers of walu on grill with marinade

Chef brushes skewers of walu on grill with marinade

Still hungry, I tried Okinawan soba noodles at the Festival’s Food Bazaar. The noodles were thick and surprisingly yellow. I guess I am used to brown buckwheat. A shaker of chili flakes was at the counter. It jazzed up the light noodle soup. This snack was tasty too, but in a different way. Rustic. Next week, I’ll try to return for a taste of the duck hearts and tsukune! As an extra incentive to return, next Sunday’s schedule includes a parade featuring actor George Takei as Parade Grand Marshal. I wonder if he will stop in at the origami room to see the Star Trek Enterprise spaceship made of paper.

June 2017
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