A city blossoming in the springtime
by Alexander Quebec
Every spring, in Japan, California, and everywhere else the diaspora has taken them, the Japanese take part in one of the biggest cultural events going on in the spring: Sakura Matsuri or the Cherry Blossom Festival. San Francisco is home to one of these events, and it’s one of the biggest draws to the city around this time every year.
Food vendors were plentiful, both outside in the festival area and in the surrounding area. Many of the booths were set up by local nonprofit groups to raise money for various causes. Inside the Japan Center, restaurants such as Uji Tim Desserts and Marufuku Ramen had long lines to get in (in fact, Marufuku even had a waitlist to get into the waitlist, or so I was told).
One of the places I wandered into was Crown & Crumpet, which was hosting a maid cafe themed day for the event. In Japan, maid cafes are quite popular with certain subsets of groups of people with their pseudo-Victorian vibe and tea time treats. While it was quite a sight to see, I only managed to get a picture of some of the desserts they had available, including a Princess style cake covered in marzipan. You’ll just have to imagine young women in traditional maids outfits or head over there yourself the next time they have a similar event.
Crown & Crumpet’s “Princess style cake” along with other sweet treats
Feeling up for some ramen, I decided to get in the line of the well-known Marufuku Ramen restaurant. As you can see from the picture, I decided to place a big order of Nope, with a side of “Not today, Satan!”
Of course, being a festival, there were tons of stalls selling merch of all kinds, everything from traditional cultural artifacts, all the way to anime-inspired artwork and shirts.
There was also a stage with live entertainment. Different acts took the stage, such as taiko drummers and beauty pageant speeches.
And, of course, one of the national symbols of Japan was there because, of course she was.
What they may lack in the sort of equity of well-known food trucks and the like, they more than makeup for in the honest authenticity of it all. The food vendors here are raising money to fund groups that keep alive traditions that may otherwise disappear with each passing generation. There aren’t many Japantowns left in the US, let alone California, which has only three to speak of (San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles). The fried mochi, for instance, was made by a group dedicated to the preservation of not just the making of mochi, but all of the other stuff on the periphery: the customs, the techniques, the ceremony. These groups deserve more than just our dollars, but also our attention, as the Japanese have had a tremendous impact on the food scene here in California. We as the proud Californian foodies that we are should dedicate a part of ourselves to protecting the source material of some of the things that have become part of California Cuisine. You can do this quite easily by simply patronizing and spreading the word of some of your favorite ethnic places all around the state. By simply devoting a bit of time and energy, you can help preserve things we might otherwise lose to cultural assimilation at large.
All in all, I was thrilled to have made the visit on such a beautiful day to the Japanese Cherry Blossom festival in San Francisco. It’s important not only to honor the past but to ensure that it has a place in our future.
Special thanks to Allen Lim (ig: Riceandtravel) for his help.
Cover photo from Dothebay.com