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'Konnichiwa' – and 'Aloha' – From Little Tokyo

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, April 07, 2008, at 11:01AM
Wave Ed Fuentes

Little Tokyo says 'Welcome to Downtown' at the Cherry Blossom Festival

This weekend marked the 7th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California's second year in Little Tokyo. Like all young trees in early growth, the bloom is small. Still, for a street fair that competes for community support with the Little Tokyo Annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival and the popular Tofu Festival, the event was a success.

The streets had brisk attendance both Saturday and Sunday, and the most important metric seemed squarely positive: festival-goers seemed to be having a good time.

The footprint for any festival held in Little Tokyo has shrunk due to development, and organizers smartly did not close the Second Street entrance to parking lots where the price of all-day parking was kept low; $3 in one lot, $4 in another. On the other end of the festival, on 2nd Street west of San Pedro, inflatable jumping rooms for children shows how that street could be used, and almost offered a link to the Little Tokyo Library.

As usual, there were a few things that should be cleaned up for next week. Promotional materials for the Cherry Blossom Festival suggested visitors use the Weekend DASH to arrive from Union Station, but weren't clear to say that the Downtown Discovery's long single-direction route provided no direct way back to the station. They also didn't note that the route stops running at 5pm, an hour and a half before the festival's closing time.

The festival intends to promote Little Tokyo merchants, but several businesses on 2nd, just east of San Pedro, were blocked off by craft booths. Next year's planning should make sure to keep clear all businesses that intend to be open over the weekend.

Still, visitors were enjoying themselves all day, and there was a good crowd for the fashion shows on the main stage. The crowd appeal of the "Hawaiian Village" that had hula dancers and ukuleles as prominent as kimonos and takio drums. Maybe Spring could bring a celebration of all Asian cultures, giving the Cherry Blossom Festival a bloom of its own.

More photos in a Cherry Blossom Festival Slide Show.

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