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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 .

June 2017
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