This is Roihuvuori, not Harajuku!

Hanami Festival in Helsinki

A few months ago, a classmate in my Swedish class mentioned that a Hanami (Japanese for “flower-viewing”) Festival will take place on May 18th, at the Roihuvuori Cherry Tree Park, in the outskirts of Helsinki. To be honest, I don’t really care much about flowers, unless it’s my wife’s birthday or our wedding anniversary. Then I’d better care about flowers, otherwise I might end up sleeping on the sofa for the rest of the year.

I had completely forgotten about the Hanami thing until last Sunday arrived, bringing a glorious sun with it. It had been rainy and cold all the way until then. Warm weather took us by surprise, and we realized we had absolutely no plans for the day. Then I came up with a brilliant idea, which believe me, doesn’t happen very often. Or if it does, I get a bad headache for the following two days because of the massive brain work involved. “Let’s go to watch cherry blossoms”, I shouted in excitement and everybody went silent, staring at me in disbelief. Even our 14 year old dog-practically deaf-raised its eyebrows in suspicion. “We can have a picnic under the cherry trees”, I added, putting an end to their growing concern about my mental health. Dog continued its “beauty sleep” with a sigh of relief and off we went.

After a short drive, we arrived at the park. It was almost noon and the place was already overflowing with people. As we were getting nearer to the cherry trees, we could see that many people were dressed in kimonos, yukatas or “anime” costumes. Some of them were Japanese, but to our surprise, the majority was Finns. It felt almost surreal: there we were standing in the middle of a Helsinki park, surrounded by people in outfits you would expect to see in Tokyo’s Harajuku or Ueno Park, world-famous for its huge Hanami Festival. We were speechless!

Better let the pictures do the talking.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

This is Roihuvuori, not Harajuku!

This is Roihuvuori, not Harajuku!

Parapara Dance

Parapara Dance

Taiko drums

Taiko drums

 

Preparing Japanese food

Preparing Japanese food

(Roihuvuori Cherry Tree Park is located east of Helsinki Center and consists of 152 cherry trees, a gift by the Japanese people living in Helsinki. In May and when cherry trees blossom, a Hanami Festival takes place in the park. Close to the Cherry Tree park there is also a Japanese-style garden. There are approximately 240 cherry trees scattered around the park and the garden, making it the biggest concentration of cherry trees in Finland. On the occasion of the Festival, there are performances featuring Japanese drums, dances, martial arts etc.)

Do you have Hanami or other Japan-inspired festivals in your country?

7 thoughts on “Hanami Festival in Helsinki

  1. You are very funny. I loved the line about having a headache for two days after your brilliant idea. 🙂 where we live in Calgary there aren’t cherry blossoms and I am not ware of any Japanese festivals but I will keep my eyes and ears open. Looks like fun!

    • Thank you for your comment, Jill! There is a strong interest in Finland for everything Japanese. And likewise, Japanese know surprisingly a lot about Finland, especially when it comes to finnish design, finnish Lapland and Santa Claus, Aurora borealis, and of course, the cartoon character Moomin, which I’ve heard, is huge in Japan.

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