For well over a thousand years, Japanese people have been picnicking under the blossoming cherry trees that have a special place in the hearts and souls of the inhabitants living in the land of the rising sun. This weekend, the Copenhagen Sakura Festival will proudly show the Danes an alternative way to ‘hygge’ in their very own backyard.
In 2006, 200 Japanese cherry trees were given to the City Council by the Danish honorary consul in Hiroshima, Seiichi Takaki, as part of the HC Andersen 200th birthday bash and planted at Langelinie. The ambassador of Japan at the time, Gotaro Ogawa said: “I am sure that the cherry trees will become a symbol of the friendship between our two nations, and please allow me to propose that from next year, when the trees come into blossom, one could arrange some kind of friendship event that could take place under the beautiful blossoming trees.”
So, since 2008, the festival has been a colourful and popular celebration of all things Japanese taking place in the shadows of the cherry blossom trees at Langelinie, a satsuma’s throw from the Little Mermaid. Meanwhile in Japan, from Okinada to Hokkaido, people have been following the ‘Cherry blossom front’ as it moves northwards up the peninsula, turning out in huge numbers at the flower-viewing hanami parties. Rich in symbolism, the ephemeral blossoms have come to represent the transient nature of beauty and life itself. Schools and public buildings usually have a tree or two outside, and the blossoms feature prominently in many traditional art forms such as tattoo art (irezumi) and manga.
Proceedings on both Saturday and Sunday will start with a high-powered display of Japanese drumming. For those fascinated by the chops, throws and flashing blades of the martial arts and combat tradition, there are karate, judo and kendo sessions on Saturday, while Sunday is for those into taido, ninjitsu and the philosophical martial art of aikido. Once the budding ninjas and samurais have had their moment of fun, you can both watch and learn how to dance the traditional Japanese way, and both days end with a free-for-all group bonodori circle dance.
More refined activities like the kimono fashion show, tea ceremony, haiku recitals, ink wash painting and ikebana flower arranging take place over both days. Those of you with teenagers who have their heads buried in the back-to-front Japanese manga comic books must not miss the weird and wonderful world of cosplay, which involves creative fans of manga dressing up as their favourite characters.
It has been an exceptionally long, hard winter so what better way to celebrate the beginning of a glorious summer than two days in the fascinating cauldron of Japanese culture. So get up from your futons, put away your sudokus and let’s make it a weekend to remember under the pink and white cherry blossom trees at Langelinie.
Langelinie Park, Cph Ø; open Sat & Sun 11:00-16:30; www.sakurafestival.dk