Bay Area Life

Life through the viewfinder

By

46th Annual Cherry Blossom Queen Program

Cherry Blossom Queen 2013, Kelly Yuka Walton and her court.

Cherry Blossom Queen 2013, Kelly Yuka Walton and her court.

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival hosted its 46th program this past Saturday at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema. The theme for this year’s program was Back to Basics. Returning to the stage to emcee the event was Jana Katsuyama of KTVU and George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area.

To honor and remember the earthquake and tsunami that occurred two years ago in Japan, the five queen candidates each wore teal ribbons and the festival’s 45th year pin to symbolize that their thoughts are still with the victims and survivors.

Queen candidates each presented their own speech, conducted an impromptu interview, and each one graced the stage with their creative expression presentation. For their creative expression segment, three candidates performed dance, one created and presented a short film, and one candidate drew using inspiration from the audience.

The results for this year’s program are as follows:

  • Cherry Blossom Queen Kelly Yuka Walton
  • First Princess Jamie Sachiko Martyn
  • Tomodachi Award Recipient Tiffany Sieu Okimura
  • Prince Kimberly Miya Sasaki
  • Prince Michiko Marie Maggi

 

Cherry Blossom Queen Kelly received a kimono and accessory set courtesy of Fujiyasu Kimono Company. She also received a trip to Japan courtesy of Japan Airlines and the Queen Award presented by Allen Okamoto.

Cherry Blossom Queen, Kelly Yuka Walton, along with her court will be a part of the Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade on Sunday, April 21st at 1pm.

Follow me on Twitter at @MJPhotographySF or Facebook at www.facebook.com/mjphotographysf 

Cherry Blossom 2012 Queen and court.

Cherry Blossom 2012 Queen and court.

The 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen’s Kimono created by Fujiyasu Kimono Company.

The 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen’s Kimono created by Fujiyasu Kimono Company.

The candidates display their kimonos during the opening routine.

The candidates display their kimonos during the opening routine.

Kimberly Miya Sasaki gives her individual speech.

Kimberly Miya Sasaki gives her individual speech.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn bows to the audience after her individual speech.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn bows to the audience after her individual speech.

Kelly Yuka Walton gives her individual speech.

Kelly Yuka Walton gives her individual speech.

Emcees Jana Katsuyama of KTVU and George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area present candidates with questions to answer during the individual impromptu interviews.

Emcees Jana Katsuyama of KTVU and George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area present candidates with questions to answer during the individual impromptu interviews.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn answers her question during the impromptu interview.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn answers her question during the impromptu interview.

Michiko Marie Maggi explains her film.

Michiko Marie Maggi explains her film.

Tiffany Sieu Okimura performs an Odori dance.

Tiffany Sieu Okimura performs an Odori dance.

Tiffany Sieu Okimura performs an Odori dance.

Another image of Tiffany Sieu Okimura’s Odori dance.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn freely draws using inspiration from the audience of what to draw.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn freely draws using inspiration from the audience of what to draw.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn is crowned the Cherry Blossom First Princess.

Jamie Sachiko Martyn is crowned the Cherry Blossom First Princess.

Kelly Yuka Walton is crowned as the 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen.

Kelly Yuka Walton is crowned as the 2013 Cherry Blossom Queen.

 

Kelly Yuka Walton is crowned and presented with the kimono from the Fujiyasu Kimono Company.

Kelly Yuka Walton is crowned and presented with the kimono from the Fujiyasu Kimono Company.

By

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

The Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival is in its second year and took place in San Francisco at the Peace Plaza in Japantown. The festival a is fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, which publishes the Nichi Bei Weekly Japanese American newspaper. Several hundred gathered for this festival that focused on dishes made from tofu and/or soy products.

Emcees for the event were George Kiriyama (NBC Bay Area) and Jane Katsuyama (KTVU Channel 2). As emcees, both George and Jane introduced the live music and performances underneath the pagoda at Peace Plaza. They also interviewed the contestants and judges for the main event. Also present were Tofu Ninja and Tofu Panda who brought many smiles to both young and old.

The main event for the Tofu Festival was the final round in the Tofu Dessert Competition. The qualifying competition was held previous to this event and three final competitors fought to be the Tofu Dessert Champion. The three tofu dishes that were in the running was a tofu tiramisu dessert, a tofu mochi dessert, and macaroons made from tofu.

The judges for the competition were Eric Mar (SF District Supervisor), Minh Tsai (Hodo Soy Beanery), Asaki Osato (2012 Cherry Blossom Queen), Grace Keh (sffood.net), and Riko Majillo (Ozumo SF). The desserts were served by Miki Fukai, Chihiro Hirai, and Manami Kidera (Princesses of the 2012 Cherry Blossom Queen’s Program). After the judges tasted all three tofu desserts, they had come to a final decision with third place going to Justin Howard (Tofuramisu), second place going to Deanna Gin (Calamansi Macaroons), and first place tofu champion went to Kenji Shimodaira (Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako).

Following the Tofu Dessert Competition, entertainment on the stage resumed and vendors continued to allow festival goers a chance to taste various foods made with tofu or soy products. For those that fear eating tofu in it’s white curd state or fermented soybeans (natto) there were alternative food trucks on Post Street that served up delicious tasting Asian foods. The two food trucks that I found to be ones that I will be following are Chairman Bao and KoJa Kitchen. Both serve up two unique culinary Asian foods and probably will be the forerunners in those dishes until another competitor joins the market.

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please like and follow me on my Facebook page)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (1)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (2)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (3)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (4)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (5)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (6)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (7)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (8)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (9)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (10)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (11)

Guest judges Riko Majillo, Minh Tsai, Eric Mar, Asaki Osato, and Grace Keh (from left to right)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (12)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (13)

Justin Howard's Tofuramisu

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (14)

Kenji Shimodaira's Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (15)

Deanna Gin's Calamansi Macaroons

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (16)

Kenji Shimodaira wins the Tofu Dessert Competition with his Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (17)

A kid in the crowd spots the Tofu Ninja, but can you spot the other ninja in the crowd?

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (18)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (19)

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012 (20)

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please like and follow me on my Facebook page)

By

45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade

CBF 2012

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade hit the streets of San Francisco yesterday. Starting at City Hall, sharing space right next to this year’s Earth Day San Francisco, and finishing off in the heart of Japantown. The Grand Parade caps off two weeks of live entertainment in music, cultural dance performances, cultural arts, martial arts, education, and so much more.

The weather seemed to cooperate with San Franciscan’s this weekend. Saturday having hot and sunny skies, while Sunday brought dense fog early and then broke apart a bit towards the later afternoon. As long as there was no rain, it’s perfect weather in San Francisco and a great day for a parade.

The parade had the usual units that attend annually, but what makes this parade a great one is that so much of the Japanese culture is shown all in just a two-hour span, from music to dance. Highlights of the parade are seeing the little children march down with their classmates supporting their schools or community centers, visiting pageant queens and their courts from Seattle, Honolulu, and LA, the past year and current reigning queens and court of San Franciso as well, demonstrations in martial arts or sword weaponry, taiko drumming, and the carrying of different Japanese shrines.

The one unit that surprisingly brought back memories growing up in San Francisco was an old Muni bus that drove down the route. It was of the old days, though freshly painted, and I can still remember riding it to and from home. My earliest memories on that style of bus was that you can ring the bell to inform the driver to stop multiple times. Now you can only pull the string for the bell once or “push” a button. The time that I can remember the most was ringing the bell almost eight times before I almost got in trouble because I was so excited to hear that chime, the driver was nice enough not to yell at me and traumatize me for life. Ahh those were the days. One more thing, I just remembered, do you even remember when the bus windows would rust or get stuck and they’d never open or close? Do you also remember that they seem to have stronger engines and drove faster than the ones that we have today? They broke down a lot more back then than they do now and less pollution are the benefits of a new fleet.

Anyhow, going back to the parade, the parade was lots of fun seeing familes and friends enjoy themselves and myself also being able to see friends that I’ve met throughout the years. It’s just a fun and exciting place to be every year and that’s one of the main reasons why I attend.

Following the parade, music entertainment resumed, the annual anime fashion show took to the stage, and the food booths were constantly busy. My mouth waters just thinking about the good eats.

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please like and follow me on my Facebook page)

Pageant Queens and their courts, and distinguished guests
The President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Pageant Queens and their courts, Consul General of Japan, and Festival Co-Chairman

2012's Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen
2012′s Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen

CBF 2012 (3)

CBF 2012 (4)

2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen of Honolulu

CBF 2012 (5)

CBF 2012 (6)

CBF 2012 (7)

CBF 2012 (8)

CBF 2012 (9)

CBF 2012 (10)

CBF 2012 (11)

Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

CBF 2012 (12)

2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her Court

CBF 2012 (13)

CBF 2012 (14)

CBF 2012 (15)

CBF 2012 (16)

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please like and follow me on my Facebook page)

By

45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program

Queen Program

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program last night put on it’s 45th Annual Program. This year five lovely ladies competed for the queen title. Miki Fukai, Asaki Osato, Megumi Yoshida, Manami Kidera, and Chihiro Hirai put on a great show at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown.

Scoring for the competition was broken up into five catagories: Essay (15%), Personal Interview (20%), Introduction Speech (20%), On-Stage Interview (30%), and Talent (15%)

The competition started off with introduction speeches in traditional kimonos, the ladies then sat down to answer five questions with a 4-minute limit, but none of the contestants used up their whole time. The ladies then presented gifts to their sponsors followed up with the talent portion of the program.

Talent portion started with Chihiro Hirai who performed a monologue. Manami Kidera sang a song in Japanese. Asaki Osato danced to her own choreographed dance. Miki Fukai played the trumpet with accompanied music. Megumi Yoshida sang a song in English with an accompanied bass player.

Following the talent portion, some awards were given out and the 2011 Cherry Blossom Queen and her court came up on stage. Queen Jeddie Kawahatsu gave her closing remarks about her court and she thanked them individually.

Lastly, the ladies came out on stage in their evening wear and performed a quick routine before they lined up to have the winners announced. When the names were being called the moment that was unforgettable was when the Queen was to be announced. Asaki Osato was stunned to find out that her name was being called. She was in disbelief. As she was being sashed and crowned she gave out a couple of confused-like grunts as if she couldn’t believe it. This made parts of the audience laugh as the theater was silent with no background music. Everyone could hear her and see her smirks. Just made me laugh inside, but trust me I was trying to keep my composure as a photographer.

Overall, the program was good though this is one of the first pageants that I’ve been to that had less than at least nine contestants. The lighting was a bit disappointing, but then again, this is moreso a movie theater and not really a theater focusing on live performances, though there are performances there sometimes.

Queen Program results for 2012:

Queen: Asaki Osato

1st Princess: Megumi Yoshida

Tomodachi Award Recipient (Miss Congeniality): Miki Fukai

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please follow me and like my Facebook page)

Queen Program (1)

Queen Program (2)

Queen Program (3)

Queen Program (4)

Queen Program (5)

Queen Program (6)

Queen Program (7)

Queen Program (8)

(If you like this post and would like to see more photographs please follow me and like my Facebook page)

By

San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 30

SFIAAFF (1)

The Center for Asian American Media hosted the 30th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for the past week and a half. The festival is the largest Asian American Film Festival in the United States and draws thousands of supporters every year. The red carpet is pulled out for famous celebrities and those that are up-and-coming. The festival honored Joan Chen for her great achievement in being a pioneer of Asian American media.

This year kicked off at the famous Castro Theatre, with the world premier of “White Frog” directed by Quentin Lee, with a great supporting cast. The feature starred renowned actress Joan Chen, BD wong, Booboo Stewart, Harry Shum Jr., and Tyler Posey. After the premier, guests headed over to the Asian Art Museum to enjoy the always fun and festive Opening Night Gala to mingle, eat and drink, and dance the night away.

Over the weekend, the festival held a program called Directions in Sound, where artists can display their talents through music. The festival also hosted the Festival Forum, which is the festivals largest free program, where guests can watch local artists, performers, and other media. The forum was held in Japantown’s Peace Plaza. The Centerpiece film for the festival was “Yes, We’re Open” by Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza.

The festival held surprisingly the most entertaining program that I have ever been to at the SFIAAFF, that program came last Wednesday when Tadashi Nakamura brought his documentary about Jake Shimabukuro to the big screen in its premier. The well written and captured scenes throughout Jake’s tour around the world playing the ukulele was one of the best documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Following the documentary was a special live performance by Jake Shimabukuro. Throughout his performance he was joined on stage by The Dominator, who won a contest giving him the opportunity to play live on stage.  Jake then followed up by playing alongside his brother and his mother who sang. The program at the Castro Theatre was a sell out and I cannot remember a time when the whole building was filled.

The SF Closing Night program, Prison Dancer: The interactive Web Musical, was very unique and different, where the audience took participation in this interactive experience. The web musical is based on the Philippine prisoners who were known for dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The program featured the web based media that was made alive through a karaoke-styled performance by the characters themselves. The characters also got the audience to move and dance along to one of the created dances. The web series will be updated about every two weeks on their website.

Finally, as the festival closed out their week in San Francisco, San Jose became the heart of the festival as the last remaining three days of the festival moved about 50 miles south. The San Jose Opening Night feature was Michael Kang’s “Knots” with actors, such as Sung Kang and Illeana Douglas. The movie was followed up by a gala at the San Jose Museum of Art.

The SFIAAFF Jury Award Winners for 2012 are:
In The Family: Comcast Narrative Award
A Lot Like You: Best Documentary Award
Director Patrick Wang (In The Family): Emerging Filmmaker Award

Loni Ding Award: Mina T. Son for Roots and Reality

If you would like more information about the festival please visit their website at www.caamedia.org

(If you like this post please like my Facebook page)

SFIAAFF (2)

SFIAAFF (3)

SFIAAFF (4)

SFIAAFF (5)

SFIAAFF (6)

SFIAAFF (7)

SFIAAFF (8)

SFIAAFF (9)

SFIAAFF (10)

SFIAAFF (11)

SFIAAFF (12)

SFIAAFF (13)

(If you like this post please like my Facebook page)

By

Groove8 @ The Boom Boom Room

Groove8 at the Boom Boom Room

One of the hottest funk bands to ever perform at the Fillmore Jazz Festival has taken the stage at the legendary Boom Boom Room located on Geary Blvd. and Fillmore St. This awesome funk band originates from North Carolina and brings to California some of the most upbeat music of our days. The band first started out from a group of friends and originally named the group Audioform, however, due to the growth of the band by adding additional members the group comprised of 8 members and thus the band known as Groove8 was born.

Although the group is still in its infancy, the group has a lot of promise and the turn out to hear them play is always amazing to see. This year they street performed in front of Marcus Books (one of America’s oldest all Black bookstore) and will later play on July 4th at the Jazz Heritage Center located at Eddy and Fillmore Streets.

The band perform locally on the East Coast, but when the Fillmore Jazz Festival rolls around all 8 members get together and take a short tour out here on the West Coast. If you haven’t heard of them please check them out. They are a funk groove band waiting to be discovered and signed by a major record label. There website can be found at www.groove8.com

Pictures of their performance can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

By

US Japan Taiko Festival 2010

US Japan Taiko Festival 2010

The US Japan Taiko Festival was held this year at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas located in San Francisco’s Japantown. In the largest theater the taiko drumming groups performed two separate sets, but the finale both groups came together and played.

The show was open to the public and tickets were sold for $30 with a $5 discount towards students and seniors. The program featured Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka & San Francisco Taiko Dojo, SF Taiko Dojo Rising Stars and special guests from Japan were Hoya Wadaiko Kai and Bungo Kurenai Taiko.

The performance was pretty amazing. Synchronized drumming without any flaws is something that is hard to do. Practice makes perfect, one can say. Having two groups perform back to back was truly something special. In my opinion the performance was not long enough, but there’s always other shows and festivals to catch taiko drumming. The performance I believe was a great success because the seats were filled and guests seemed to enjoy the night by basking in the rhythms of taiko.

Having experienced this event for the first time, it is simply amazing. There’s a first for everything and listening to it outside in the streets of San Francisco is one thing, but listening to it inside of a movie theater is totally a new and different experience. If you would like to experience it please come and check it out next year or for upcoming events please check out the SF Taiko Dojo website at www.sftaiko.com

Pictures of the US Japan Taiko Festival  can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

By

Cherry Blossom Festival and Grand Parade 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival and Grand Parade 2010 (click here for images)

The Cherry Blossom Grand Parade was held this year on one of the warmest days that San Francisco has had this year thus far. The parade started in the early afternoon and lasted for about two hours. Meanwhile in the morning, there were tons to see and do. I eventually spent most of my time observing a few exhibits at the Hotel Kabuki. There I got to see some pretty awesome exhibits.

There were four main exhibits that were shown on Sunday and they were the origami exhibit, the bonsai tree exhibit, the paper doll exhibit, and the samurai sword exhibit. My favorite of the four was the paper dolls exhibit. Such great craftsmanship had gone into them that I felt like taking one home; however to my dismay, they were not for sale.

The Grand Parade featured a few local schools, local politicians and dignitaries, pageant contestants and queens, taiko drum troopes, other music groups, men and women from our local law enforcement, along with our fire department, and much much more. The finale of the parade was the highlight for most festival goers with two men whom are half naked on top of a sake keg carrying device who are being rocked side to side and men who toss sake into the air. It is said that the more the sake carrying device is rocked from side to side the more fortune it will bring.

Following the parade, the festival still kept going strong with their exhibits, bands hitting the stages once again, food vendors cooking up a storm, performances rocking the stage in Peace Plaza, and the festival finished off with an annual raffle where winners were pulled by the beautiful ladies of the Cherry Blossom Queens Program.

No plans for next year for two of the weekends in April, well make sure you pencil in a day at the Cherry Blossom Festival here in SF. It will not be disappointing, unless it rains of course.

Pictures of the holiday party can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

By

Cherry Blossom Festival 2010

cherry-blossom-festival-20101

The Cherry Blossom Festival once again never fails to be a fabulous festival and by no means does it get boring year after year. It’s a great Japanese cultural festival traditionally held here in San Francisco’s Japantown. The festival was held for two weekends this year in April and this year the weather was a little unpredictable. The first weekend of the festival it had rained and it really put a damper on attendance.

Although poor weather was present the first weekend, it did not rain on their parade, no pun intended. The second weekend of the festival received great sunny weather. It actually felt like summer in San Francisco for once.

Great things were to be seen at the festival with awesome cultural dances, cultural music, taiko drumming, cultural films, arts and crafts, an origami exhibit, a bonsai tree exhibit, a Japanese paper doll exhibit, a samurai sword exhibit, import cars, live jazz and funk bands, mochi making, great food, and much much more.

Probably the most interesting exhibit at the festival would have to be the Japanese paper doll exhibit. So much time and effort must be put into them that it shows in the final result. The precision that one must have to undergo is just astounding. The paper dolls were very colorful and full of life and you would not have guessed that the clothing would have been made out of folded and cut paper. Pictures of this exhibit and a few other exhibits I mentioned can be found on the link from the next posting.

Great fun and entertainment, the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the greatest cultural festivals that is held here in San Francisco. If you haven’t checked it be sure to mark it on your calendars for next year because it will be a great time, you can count on that.

Pictures of the Cherry Blossom Festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

By

San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) Closing Night

SFIAAFF Closing Night 2010 (click here for images)

The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) is the largest Asian American Film Venue in the country. The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) played host for it in San Francisco and this year CAAM celebrates it’s 30th year as an established Asian American organization.

The closing night feature film, Au Revoir Taipei, written and directed by Arvin Chen, ended the film festivities for the festival. The cast and crew that were present at the screening were filmmaker Arvin Chen, producers In-Ah Lee and Philipp Steffens, co-producer Michelle Cho, editor Justin Guerrieri, cinematographer Michael Fimognari, and actor Lawrence Ko.

The film was a comedic creative piece about a guy who falls in love for this girl that works in a bookstore, the cat and mouse adventures of wannabe gangsters led on by their boss, and the food, scenes, and other sights around the city of Taipei.

Prior to the screening of Au Revoir Taipei, special awards went out to:

Narrative Competition Best Narrative Feature: DEAR LEMON LIMA, Dir. Suzi Yoonessi

Special Jury Award: THE MOUNTAIN THIEF, Dir. Gerry Balasta

Jury Recognition for Visual Achievement: FOG, Dir. Kit Hui

Best Documentary Feature: WO AI NI MOMMY, Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal

Following the film guests moved on over to Temple Nightclub to end the festivities here in San Francisco. Filmmakers, actors, and guests came to celebrate the night away with drinks, music, mingling, and dancing.

Pictures of the closing night can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.