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Gallery: Helsinki’s hanami festival – a slice of Japan in Finland

In Finland, the spring festival took root in 2008, when it was celebrated for the first time on Mother’s Day.

Helsinki residents and visitors gathered in the city’s Roihuvuori Park for annual Hanami celebrations, although the familiar soft pink blossoms had already faded from the park's cherry trees by the time of this year's festival.

The literal English translation for the Japanese term "hanami" is "flower viewing" and that’s exactly what picnickers indulge in during the good-natured spring gathering.

The annual free event also provided visitors with a hefty slice of Japanese culture, as they were treated to displays of traditional tea-making ceremonies and tea art, as well as ikebana or Japanese floral arrangements and origami, the art of paper folding.

Budo, or modern Japanese martial arts and performances on the koto, a stringed instrument, rounded out the programme.

In Japan, the hanami tradition traces its roots back for centuries and is considered one of modern-day Japan’s most important festivals. Since the festival takes place when the trees are in bloom, the date varies from year to year.

In Finland, the spring festival took root in 2008, when it was celebrated for the first time on Mother’s Day, just one year after the first 50-odd saplings were planted with the help of Helsinki’s Japanese community.

Since then the number of cherry trees in the park has expanded to 250, creating the delicate pink canopy that festival regulars have come to know and love.

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