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Springtime Flowers & Cultural Illuminations: The 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival at San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden

We’re just past the March equinox, and spring is unfolding in spectacular fashion here in Southern California. It’s a wonderful time to stay with us here in Downtown San Diego at the Sofia Hotel, where you’ll find yourself nice and close to one of the great annual celebrations of the season: the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Japanese Friendship Garden!

A week of floral buildup is culminating in this weekend’s festival, held Friday through Sunday within one of the most resplendent of the many gardens of Balboa Park.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden

This is the 14th edition of the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Japanese Friendship Garden, which honors San Diego’s sister-city status with Yokohama.

The Cherry Blossom Festival evokes a century-old fixture of Japanese culture and art: the practice of hanami, the appreciation of flower blooming. These days, it’s most associated with blossoming cherries, though the flowers of plum trees have also been a traditional focus of hanami in Japan. Hanami sees people strolling and picnicking around springtime cherry trees in their pink and white splendor, and taking plenty of pictures.

Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden devotes about an acre of its magnificently landscaped grounds to Pink Cloud cherries, which are nearing peak bloom right now.

The garden’s event and marketing coordinator, Jon Osio, told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “A few trees are close to full bloom, with a majority beginning to bloom. Although a little wetter this year, having the sun out more balanced things out pretty nicely.”

The Union-Tribune article notes that the 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival will be the first to spotlight a monumental new addition to the garden: a bronze statue of Kannon Bosatsu, a Buddhist bodhissatva figure also widely known by her Sanskrit name Avalokitesvara, her Chinese name Guan Yin, and the English moniker the Goddess of Mercy. A notable ironsmith of the Tokugawa Period, Takumi Obata, made the statue in 1735.

The Kannon Bosatsu bronze eventually came to reside in the Middlegate Japanese Garden in Pass Christian, Mississippi, which unfortunately was destroyed during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. In 2017, it was donated to the Japanese Friendship Garden, where, just last December, it was dedicated in an official ceremony.

Cherry Blossom Festival Events

Besides appreciating the flowering cherries themselves, the festival this weekend will feature dozens of arts-and-crafts merchants as well as food vendors and the refreshments of both a beer and sake garden and a tea garden.

A variety of live entertainment, meanwhile, will take place on the festival stage across the three days. Performers include the Southern California Koto Ensemble (Friday at 3:30 PM), San Diego Kendo Bo (Friday at 4 PM), Japan Karate Do (Saturday at 10:30 AM), G-Moto’s unique “flute-boxing” combo of bamboo flute and beatboxing (Saturday at 11:30 AM and Sunday at 1:30 PM), Befu Calligraphy (Saturday at 3 PM), the San Diego Kimono Club (Sunday at 2:30 PM), and the Japanese chorus of The Harmonies (Sunday at 3 PM), to name a mere sample. A variety of taiko ensembles will also perform: San Diego Taiko, the Buddhist Temple of San Diego Taiko, Genbu Daiko, La Jolla Taiko, and Asayake Taiko.

Take a look at the full Cherry Blossom Festival schedule of performances right here. Tickets are $12 for General Admission and $10 for seniors, military members, and students. The action’s underway from 10 AM to 6 PM Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Enjoy This Year’s Cherry Blossom Festival With Springtime Luxury Accommodations at the Sofia Hotel

We’d be honored to host you here at the Sofia Hotel for the 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival taking place just a few minutes away in Balboa Park. The Japanese Friendship Garden, incidentally, is beautiful all year round, so even if you can’t make this homegrown celebration of hanami we hope you check it out during your next Downtown San Diego hotel stay at the Sofia!