First Day of Spring – 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

This week was huge. Our dog had her 9th birthday, it’s the 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park and the first day of Spring was Wednesday.

Japanese Cherry Blossoms at the 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival – Japanese Friendship Garden Balboa Park San Diego California

This festival is something I have always wanted to attend but it was always difficult to muster up the energy and courage to get small children in the car and down to Balboa Park knowing full well that we would get stuck in traffic on the way home.

Purple Wisterias
Purple Wisterias near the benches on the upper garden

We were super fortunate because since D. is off on Tuesdays & Wednesdays we were able to go down to Balboa Park on Tuesday before the rains came on Wednesday to wash away the cherry blossoms. We were also super lucky because the Tuesday of the Festival happened to be the Free Museum Tuesday for San Diego County Residents that included the Japanese Friendship Garden. This website is a great resource in finding out which museum is free on which Tuesday. Parking can be kind of difficult all around the park on any Tuesday but we were fortunate enough to find a few spaces over by the Aero Space Museum near the Automotive Museum.





This photo was at the lower garden which was so pretty!


This was at the upper garden. When I was in Elementary school I saw a Mini Bonsai kit at Barnes and Noble and I have since always dreamed of cultivating my own. One of my old roommate’s friends had a few and he told me that it’s a very involved and expensive hobby.


Almost ten years ago I had gone here to the Japanese Friendship Garden, not during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and I remember them being low on Koi Fish. One of the volunteers at the garden told me that due to a technical error, the water wasn’t treated properly overnight and killed thousands of dollars worth of donated koi fish. I went online to verify the story and found this from NBC 7. Can’t believe it really was about 10 years ago! Anyway,  I was really happy to see that they ponds are now replenished with tons of koi although we didn’t get a chance to feed the ones on the upper garden. If I remember correctly, they have a little despenser with food that you can put a quarter in to feed the kois. It was really busy and Henry had to potty so we skipped that area.


Here’s Henry enjoying some Organic seeweed snacks from Costco next the dojo in the lower garden.


I was trying to take a picture of us trying the fried squid/octopus and Harvey couldn’t wait to try it. I’m pretty sure I’ve already had calamari but this was really good.


Henry was all for eating fried food on a stick, he happily ate it and didn’t question it. We thought it was kind of strange and asked him, “Henry, do you know what you’re eating?” He thought it was chicken so we didn’t spoil it for him since he was enjoying it so much. We also tried the veggie and the curry Okonomyaki (Japanese pancakes) as well and found them to be really interesting. If you don’t make it to the festival, this is a great recipe to try at home.


Throughout the upper and lower gardens were these beautiful flowering bushes. I’m a plant lady and have always been into them since my grandpa taught me how to water our garden when when I was younger. When he would take me to our local Catholic church these flowers were growing next to the Mary statue and I remember him telling me about how a person could grow this from cultivating a cutting with no roots. As a small child I thought that was silly but now I know that it totally a thing! As an adult I’ve learned that these particular plants are called Azaleas and come in beautiful colors that we saw throughout these gardens and they were so gorgeous.


At the lower level I also saw these California Poppies and it brought back happy memories of when we went to Lake Elsinore to check out the Super Bloom a few weeks ago. The trail head we took has since been closed since people weren’t staying on trails and committing petty theft by picking our state flower. It is so important to respect nature around us. I read in the most recent issue of Magnolia Magazine that they promoted wild harvesting for natural decor. They did put in a disclaimer that it’s important to look up your local laws on it before doing so. As far as I’ve read, it’s illegal to do on public lands but if you have permission on someone’s private property, then it is okay. More information can be found here at the California .gov website and here on the federal website.


As a big fan of Small Spaces, Big Dreams on Netflix, I remember an episode where the couple had dreams of having their own Japanese rock garden in the UK and they had an opportunity to visit one that a man had worked on perfecting for over 20 years. This area was very calming and a much needed break that we enjoyed for a few minutes.


We felt so lucky to be able to experience the festival for free and knock it off my bucket list. Some of the trees weren’t in bloom yet so there’s a chance that you can see them after this bought of rain. They also had a bunch of vendors that sold authentic Tokidoki items and kawaii (Japanese word for cute) stuffed animals and keychains.




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