Spring Pilgrimage to Japan Town

Growing up in San Francisco, when spring flowers began to bloom, my parents would take me to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan Town. We would eat our way through the people-packed streets, taking in parades, dance recitals, Taiko Dojo drumming, and other colorful fanfare. I’ve always loved the festival because it exposed me to other cultures, to food that I quickly grew to love, and to a community of people in San Francisco that are an interesting and integral part of its history.

I have eagerly awaited winter’s end. What better way to mark the beginning of spring, then to expose Caleb and Sadie to the Cherry Blossom Festival, which is all about welcoming the spring season at the first sign of cherry blossoms blooming on the trees. Mateo stayed home to study and I packed the kids and our day gear into the car for an eating adventure in the City. The traffic and parking gods were smiling happily upon us because we breezed into San Francisco and found a parking space just two blocks from Japan Town. Way!

Once we were in the middle of the festival, we quickly found our way to the rows of food booths. Not surprising, given that I was leading the pack. It was not yet noon and already long lines were forming in front of the booths selling meat on a skewer, fried-balls-of-goodness-topped-with-some-amazing-looking-sauce (sadly, I don’t remember what they’re called in Japanese), and my favorite…warm, red bean pancakes – imagawa yaki – made fresh to order.

I toured Caleb around the booths and showed him what his choices were and he chose hot dog sushi – musubi. I didn’t know there was such a thing, but leave it to Caleb to find this! They’re also made with Spam (gagging to myself as I write this)! He devoured this odd concoction sitting on the street curb and, in no time, was dragging me back to the booths for dessert. Caleb picked a coconut honey mochi cake and I gravitated to my childhood favorite, the sweet bean pancakes. Sadie enjoyed lumpia quietly from her stroller. We must have looked strange to her – stuffing our faces, while saying excitedly to each other…“try this!”, “no, try this!” What have I done!? I think I’ve created a foodie! Perhaps two!

Caleb is a musician at heart and he seems particularly fascinated by percussion instruments. I knew that he would be taken with the Taiko Dojo drumming at the festival. He was, and we enjoyed a spectacular performance by the group. Click: Taiko Dojo Performance

It was not long before we were ready to attack some more food, so from the drumming we wandered into the interior of Japan Town. Caleb had expressed interest in a tapioca drink and I needed a sushi fix. Once again, Sadie watched with amusement as Caleb and I shoveled delicious food things into our mouths.

Pretty soon, Caleb started to complain of a tummy ache, indicating it was time to head back home to the East Bay. We came, we saw, we ate, and ate, and ate. Our stomachs cried “uncle” and both kids looked ready for a nap. To home we went with a little ‘spring’ in our step.