Wrapping up the festivities of the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival was the Grand Parade and the weather was beautiful. Temperatures reached the high 70s and the sun filled the skies with no clouds in sight. The parade began at City Hall and finshed in Japantown with hundreds, if not thousands of people, lining up on the sides of the streets to catch a glimpse of Japanese culture (song, dance, various types of artistry) and Japanese community involvement groups.
Grand Marshal for the parade was Japan’s singer and actor, Teruhiko Saigo. Teruhiko’s career started when he released his first album, “Kimidake o” in 1964. Later that year he won the 1964 New Artist Award (Japan Record Awards). In the years to come he acted in a couple television shows in 1973 and 1975. However, the two television drama series wouldn’t stop there, Teruhiko went on to record 350 songs, acted in 250 television shows, and 30 films.
Making their final appearance the 2012 Cherry Blossom Queen and Court paid their last respects by bowing to the crowd. Other visiting Queens and Courts participated in the parade as well. Cities represented in other regional Queen programs were from Seattle, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Soon thereafter, the 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen and Court were ushered in towards the end of the parade, but ahead of the grand finale. Cherry Blossom Queen Kelly wore her beautiful kimono that she won at the Queen Program, courtesy of the Fujiyasu Kimono Company. Queen Kelly along with her court rode on a float sponsored by Japan Airlines.
Throughout the parade, especially in the grand finale, portable shrines were carried by several hundred youth and adults in total. The thundering sound of taiko by the San Francisco Taiko Dojo ushered in the last few portable shrines. The anchor unit was the largest shrine of them all, the Taru Mikoshi. This portable Shinto shrine weighs over half a ton and needs over 100 people to carry the shrine from start to finish. Legend has it that those that carry any of the Shinto shrines would rid them of any curse that they might have and by shaking the shrine would amuse or awaken the deity or deities that reside in the shrine. The more shaking would result in better benefit.