Gold Line Event: Little Tokyo’s Cherry Blossom Festival


Traditional Japanese parasols set the theme for the Cherry Blossom Festival Southern California.

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Festivities Honor Japanese-American Culture

There will be dancing in the street near the Gold Line’s Little Tokyo/Arts District station. This celebrating marks the tenth anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival Southern California on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. The Festival is a great cross-cultural event with something for everyone in the family, tourists and residents alike.

Old woman dancing

Tourists and locals, young and old, dance at the intersection of First Street and Central Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles during last year's Cherry Blossom Festival Southern California.

Several stages will feature a variety of events from serious to fun, from traditional dance and music to the latest manga-inspired costumes and J-Pop hip-hop.

Daion Taiko drummers

The Daion Taiko drummers open last year's Cherry Blossom Festival with a wallop! This Downtown Los Angeles event is easily reached by the Gold Line Metro train.

The Blossom Stage is the site of the opening ceremony. Last year’s impressive ceremony began with Daion Taiko, a spectacular local drumming group. If you’ve never seen or heard live taiko drumming, you’ve missed a thrilling experience.

Sake barrel breaking

Dignitaries break the sake barrel to open the Festival.

Last year’s opening included a traditional sake barrel breaking ceremony. Unfortunately, audience members weren’t invited to sample the sake from that barrel, but those who were inclined took advantage of the nearby Beer and Sake Garden that was open throughout the Festival.

Community members will present a fashion show on the Blossom Stage modeling gorgeous and elegant vintage kimonos. Last year’s show was fascinating. They really don’t make them the way they used to, and here’s a great opportunity to see the way they were.


Kimono model w/fan

A fashion show of beautiful vintage kimonos brings Japanese culture alive on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Also featured on the Blossom Stage will be traditional and contemporary dance and music performances, martial arts, award presentations, and the Most Photogenic Dog Contest on Sunday at 3:15 pm. You can enter your own pooch until March 1. Online voting for the winner will be from March 13 – 20.

Hawaiian dancers

Graceful hula dancers sway.

We were reminded that many Japanese-Americans’ ancestors came from Japan to Hawaii as agricultural workers. Their heritage is honored on the Hawaiian Village Stage, dedicated to traditional and contemporary Hawaiian dance and music events.

Young martial artist

A young martial artist shows her accomplishments.

Martial arts fans will be delighted by the demonstrations at the Martial Arts Stage. Karate, aikido, and other Japanese styles will be complemented by presentations from other cultures.

We missed last year’s sumo wrestlers and hope that they’ll be back this year — one of us is a huge (so to speak) fan of this unique and fast-moving sport, which is more about strategy and agility than size and power.

Girl in anime costume

A costumed contestant

The J-Pop Stage will be back again this year, spotlighting contemporary pop, rock, and hip-hop performers. Last year, a Cosplay contest on this stage featured remarkable anime-inspired costumes.

Street dancers

Everyone can join in the easy to follow dance during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

None of the four stages is big enough for the hundreds of dancers who participate in Ondo dancing. This traditional folk-style circle dancing is led by costumed community groups, and Festival goers are encouraged to join in the fun — the dances are easy to do. We had trouble taking sharp photos last year because we were bouncing along with the catchy syncopated music.

Stone Ishihara

Photographer Stone Ishihara

As photographers ourselves, we particularly appreciated meeting Stone Ishihara in the Cultural Pavilion and seeing his photographs of the internment camp where he was held during WWII. We hope he’ll be there with his photos this year.

The kids will enjoy activities such as origami and fish kite making, book readings, and (if they need to burn off some energy) inflatable games.

In addition to the many Japanese restaurants nearby, traditional and street fair munchies will be available near the Beer and Sake Pavilion. There will also be a number of booths featuring craft vendors.

Admission to the Cherry Blossom Festival is free.

We’ll be there, and we hope you’ll join us!

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