Street fair season in San Francisco kicked off this this past weekend with the 47th annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown. It tends to focus more on traditional Japanese culture - I arrived just as a Taiko drumming performance was ending - but it's also a precursor to one of my most favorite festivals, also happening in Japantown, later this summer: the J-POP SUMMIT Festival. As the name implies, J-POP is a celebration of all things related to Japanese pop culture - as they put it, "the latest in Japanese music, film, art, fashion, games, anime, food, as well as" (my personal favorite) "niche subcultures" -- and we got a preview in the form of an autograph and photo session with Ayumi Seto. She's a Harajuku Kawaii model turned Aomoji-kei fashion designer, and I spoke with her about just what Aomoji-kei fashion is, as well as about the nerdy influences in her new clothing line, "Aymmy in the batty girls," which takes most of its inspiration from American pop culture. (There are aliens and zombies involved.)
Even without all that, April 13, 2014 was just a nice day to be out in the world, particularly at the Cherry Blossom Festival. As is to be expected from a street fair in Japantown or elsewhere, there were plenty of delicious food options, including:
1) The Spam Musubi of Your Choice.
Musubi is structurally similar to sushi, but doesn't qualify because the rice isn't seasoned. I don't eat non-seafood meat, but if I did, I would be all over spam-based products - mmm, salty - though I might be more inclined to get it from the booth run by local BSA Troop 58, since they had their very own Gene Belcher hawking in a musubi costume.
My companion Marta and I instead acquired our noms from the neighboring Wafudog, which offered delicious (and optionally vegetarian) Japanese gourmet hot dogs.
And, after finding physical fulfillment, one could also find spiritual enlightenment from one's choice of...
2) Incredibly Strange Religions.
I'd never heard of Happy Science, a relatively new religion which humbly describes its founder as "a living Buddha and a savior,", until I reviewed their anime movie The Mystical Laws for the Village Voice a couple years ago. As much as people have tried to find Scientology propaganda in Battlefield Earth, it's got nothin' on The Mystical Laws.
And speaking of Scientology, I really want to shake the hand of whoever laid out the booths for the Cherry Blossom Festival, because they were right across from Happy Science.
Also, an honest-to-goodness E-Meter!
I've never actually seen one out in the wild before - and, judging from the sleeker-looking model on the official website, it's a slightly older model. I've gotten the impression that the San Francisco branch of Scientology isn't quite as well funded as the Los Angeles presence; their storefront in my neighborhood is seriously dinky, even by storefront church standards. (Also, on behalf of the Voice Media Group, I'd like to send out my love to the Church of Scientology's crack legal team.)
In any event, if a religion doesn't involve a big inflatable rainbow, it ain't for me.
But the real action was happening indoors.