By Sophia Li
Last weekend, Cupertino hosted their annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Memorial Park, featuring arts and craft booths, Japanese cultural displays, delicious Japanese food, live entertainment, children’s activities, and cultural demonstrations. The Cherry Blossom Festivals are organized to celebrate the relationship between sister cities Cupertino and Toyokawa, Japan. The relationship was established in 1978, when Cupertino City Council member Dan O’Keefe signed a sister city relationship declaration with Yoshio Yamamoto, the Mayor of Toyokawa. The purpose of the declaration was to establish peace after World War II.
The festival setting is a large expanse of tree-dotted grassy fields, cut through by complex lake and bridge structures. Unfortunately, due to “Mandated Drought Restrictions”, the lake was not filled this year. I could only imagine how beautiful it would have been to see fish swimming under the bridges, and birds gathering in the water. Lining the grass fields is a Senior Center, a parking lot, a ball field, tennis courts, a play field, a food court, the Quinlan Community Center, an amphitheater, and playground structures.
Visitors ranged from families, couples, groups of friends, to individuals. Visitor Lisa Sangiovanni mentioned that she came because her “friends wanted to go” and she likes “all the stuff we can see [and] all the stuff we can buy…there’s a lot of jewelry.” Some visitors dressed for the occasion, such as wearing a traditional kimono and carrying floral paper umbrellas.
Booths sold items like jewelry, hand-made keychains, cards, handbags, clothing, plants, ceramics, etc. One of the booths that stood out was called “Ecosystems of Hawaii” which sold tiny self-sufficient ecosystems that contained a type of small red shrimp called Opae’ula. Amidst the small business vendors, there were also booths from companies like xfinity advertising their services.
Food vendors sold delicious Japanese cuisine such as sushi, ice cream, shaved ice, Asian chicken salad, mochi, and more. Yearly visitor Susan Tsai says that she “likes the food…whether it’s nigiri…onigiri…the Hawaiian shaved ice and ice cream.” The ice cream resembled those sold by the franchise Dippin Dots, and many visitors were seen with a cup or two. Some of the booths near the Community Center showcased Japanese Akita dogs, Shiba Inu dogs, and Koi fish. It was quite amusing to watch the satisfied Shiba Inu dogs laze in the sun while being petted by visitors.
Displays inside the Community Center included: Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu), elegant Japanese paper dolls (washi ningyo), and floral arrangements (ikebana). Each doll was different in posture, accessories, or clothes and made with colorful patterned paper. It was so popular, that I had to wait for my turn before I could take a decent picture. There was even an area for visitors to learn how to fold origami, hosted by the San Francisco Origami Club.
Japanese ceremonial drums (Taiko) are a prominent part of the amphitheater program. For visitor Susan Tsai, “Taiko is my number one…that’s like the highlight.” I was also drawn to the beating of the drums as soon as I heard them. Performers chanted and turned their bodies from side to side as they pounded the drums. The amphitheater was packed.
Overall, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Cupertino has a large variety of attractions that can appeal to many different visitors. Whether it’s buying local crafts, eating food, or watching performances, the Cherry Blossom Festival has much to offer.