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    Nebuta Arts on the Road: 50th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    Nebuta Arts on the Road: 50th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    This past weekend we visited our “sister city” to the north, San Franciso’s Nihonmachi (Japantown), for the 50th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Through the years we had heard loads about the Festival, and we were eager to see it through our own eyes. It did not disappoint.

    We visited the Festival during its second and final weekend. On Saturday, we browsed the exhibits (origami, bonsai, dolls), community booths and food and craft vendors. I don’t know what a typical festival in San Francisco is like, but this crowd was no joke. There was a line for everything!

     Northern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    The weather was awful on Sunday, the day of the Grand Parade. It started late, there were probably less people than usual, and we were soaked by the end. But the Parade participants definitely still gave it their all. For the first time, we got to see a Parade instead of being in it!

    Northern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    Northern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalMikoshiNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    In terms of content, the Parade is fairly similar to the Nisei Week Grand Parade. Both contain various community groups and figures and end with a showstoppers (in this case, a large mikoshi). But what struck me about this Parade was the number of youth involved. Thinking ahead to the future of the community, this is a very encouraging sight.

    Northern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNorthern California Cherry Blossom Festival

    Overall - as active members of the Little Tokyo community here in Los Angeles, it was great to see the Japanese and Japanese American culture thriving in Japantown, San Francisco. We were blown away by the scope and engagement of the Festival. We’re looking forward to future trips up and seeing what else they’ve got in store! If you’re in the NorCal area during April, be sure to check it out.

    To learn more about the Festival, visit: https://sfcherryblossom.org/

    PRO TIP:

    • This is probably a given for San Francisco, but public transportation is the way to go with all the street closures. We took the 38 bus in from Powell Street BART, got off at the Laguna stop. We also took Uber on the way out.

    2017 Southern California Cherry Blossom Guide

    2017 Southern California Cherry Blossom Guide

    Sakura - cherry blossoms - are esteemed in Japan not only for their beauty but also for their fragility and ephemeral nature. Sakura are taken so seriously that, come spring, cherry blossom "forecasts" detail the exact bloom status of the trees in different regions so that fans can time their visits accordingly. (Like this one.)  

    We can't provide such a detailed analysis here but we can help if you're wondering where and when you can catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms in Southern California this year. Here's our guide to some of our favorite spots around Los Angeles and Orange County, along with a status update as of this week. 

    LAKE BALBOA - Van Nuys

    6300 Balboa Blvd. 
    Van Nuys, CA 91406
    http://www.laparks.org/aquatic/balboa

    Lake Balboa has over 2,000 cherry trees, which surround a small lake and other greenspace. It is considered to be one of the top viewing spots in Los Angeles and therefore can get crowded. Plan accordingly.  

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/5/17: We spoke with the park office three days ago, and at the time trees were only showing "small flowers" with the peak bloom is expected to occur within the next two weeks. Their advice is: 
    1) Call the park once a week for an update - 818-756-9743
    2) Check the website: www.lakebalboa.org. It was updated this weekend, and it shows flowers beginning to bloom! 


    DESCANSO GARDENS - La Canada-Flintridge

    1418 Descanso Drive
    La Canada-Flintride, CA 91011
    https://www.descansogardens.org/event/cherry-blossom-festival/?instance_id=1919

    Descanso Gardens hosts a very popular Cherry Blossom Festival each year.  This year, the festival runs from this weekend, March 4 and 5, and the following weekend, March 11 and 12. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. 

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/2/17: We called the Gardens and were told both weekends would be "active" and relatively the same status for viewing. However, ticket availability is much higher on the second weekend of the festival. 

     

    HUNTINGTON GARDENS - San Marino

    1151 Oxford Rd
    San Marino, CA 91108

    http://www.huntington.org/


    Cherry blossoms are not a central part of Huntington Gardens, but there are a few trees in the Japanese Garden. It's probably not worth an entire visit just to see those trees but rather if you're at Huntington anyway - make a stop. 

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/4/17: Flowers are either in full bloom or already past full bloom, with some trees already barren. Get here quick to see something! 

    Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017

     

    HUNTINGTON BEACH CENTRAL PARK - Huntington Beach

    7111 Talbert Avenue
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648
    http://www.hbcbfest.com/


    The 350-acre park has 50 cherry blossom trees, gifted to the city by their Japanese sister city, Anjo (Aichi Prefecture), in 2002.

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/5/17:  Many of the trees are partially blooming, while other trees are still just showing buds. It appears there might not be a prime time to catch all the trees at once, but there should still be something to see in the coming weeks.  
    According to festival officials, we can (fingers crossed) expect the park to still be a sight to behold during the Park's Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, March 19.  The event is held each year to celebrate the sister city relationship. **BONUS: Nebuta Arts will be hosting a pop-up shop at the Festival. Check our calendar for full details!  


    Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017

    A Cross-Cultural Christmas: Nebuta in the 85th Annual Christmas Parade

    A Cross-Cultural Christmas: Nebuta in the 85th Annual Christmas Parade

    For the second year in a row, the Nebutabayashi Hozonkai - of which Nebuta Arts is a part! - participated in the Hollywood Christmas Parade (HCP).  The Nebutabayashi Hozonkai is a non-profit organization responsible for developing nebuta floats and displaying them through various avenues throughout the Los Angeles area. In the past the group focused on Little Tokyo's annual Nisei Week Parade, but last year the reach was expanded to include the HCP. 

     

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    Aomori Food - More Than Just Apples!

    Aomori Food - More Than Just Apples!

    Every once in awhile the Japanese markets of Southern California do regional food fairs, featuring the many delicious foods from different parts of Japan. This past weekend it was Aomori's turn at Marukai Gardena.

    We admittedly went a little crazy, picking up a basket full of goodies:

    ○ Shijimi (freshwater clams)
    ○ Saba (mackerel)
    ○ Handmade apple candy
    ○ Apple juice
    ○ Yakiniku sauce w/apple
    ○ Sesame apple dressing

    (Many of the products we chose were related to the famous Aomori apple, but we also picked up some seafood - freshwater clams and my personal favorite fish, saba.)

    We incorporated these foods into our next home cooked meal:


    Homecooked "Aomori" dinner

    ○ Broiled saba with lemon and daikon oroshi (grated radish)
    ○ Miso soup with shijimi.
         - We prefer a heavy red miso. Just add in the clams as you prepare the broth.
    ○ Garden salad with sesame apple dressing
    ○ Kabocha nimono (simmered Japanese pumpkin)
         - Tip: Don't keep the kabocha on the heat too long, or it gets mushy fast. After bringing the kabocha to a boil in the dashi, ~5min on medium heat is probably all you need. 
    ○ Rice

    With addition of the miso soup and Japanese pumpkin, this is a very simple and delicious dinner for cozy fall nights. 

    What's your favorite homecooked meal? Leave us a comment below!

    Crash Course in Japanese Food + Culture

    Crash Course in Japanese Food + Culture

    Looking for a "crash course" in Japanese food and culture?

    One of the best ways to get a taste of almost everything is at the 2016 Los Angeles Japanese Food Festival, to be held Sunday, November 13, at the Universal City Hilton from 11-4PM. This event has been held for over a decade, first starting out in a Little Tokyo location and since branching out to be held in Universal City. It is sponsored by the Japanese Restaurant Association of America and the Japanese Food Culture Association, with the ultimate goal of promoting and celebrating Japanese food and Japanese culture in Southern California.

    List of food offerings:

    •   Sushi
    •   Fresh Sashimi
    •   Tempura Soba - Tempura & Buckwheet Noodle
    •   Chicken Karaage
    •   Ramen Noodles
    •   Rice Onigiri
    •   Beer
    •   Sake & Shochu
    •   Dessert
    •   and more...

    Schedule of Events:

    •   11:00am Door Opens / Taiko Drum Performance 1
    •   11:15am Opening Program / Opening Sake Barrel
    •   11:20am Taiko Drum Performance 2
    •   11:45am Ceremony Tuna Filleting
    •   12:30pm Rice Ball Workshop Demonstration 1
    •   13:15pm Sake Tasting Contest
    •   14:00pm Performance and Experience of making Sushi Roll
    •   15:00pm Rice Ball Workshop Demonstration 2
    •   15:45pm Door Prizes
    •   16:00pm Closing

    Added bonus? Nebuta Arts will be hosting a pop-up shop at the Festival from 11AM-3PM!

    • For more for information visit the Japanese Food Culture Association (JFCA).
    • Over 80 volunteers help to make this event possible each year. Interested in helping out? Find more information and sign up by 10/14/16 here.
    • Tickets are available to purchase online