Yesterday I attended two cherry tree (sakura) planting ceremonies in Cardiff.
The UK and Japan have a strong relationship, developed over more than 150 years. At the heart of the relationship is a desire for mutual understanding and to learn from each other’s way of life, culture and history. By planting thousands of sakura trees across the UK, the Sakura Cherry Tree Project hopes to bring the UK-Japan relationship close to our communities. These trees are a strong symbol of friendship that can be supported and enjoyed by future generations. Over five thousand cherry trees will be planted throughout the UK, of which approximately, one thousand will be planted in Wales.
This project is a part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture. It is represented in Japan by the Japan British Society, whose main role is to raise funds for the project, and in the UK by a special committee convened by the Japan Matsuri Company (an organisation jointly managed by the Japanese Association, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK, the Japan Society London and the Nippon Club).
100 Trees have been donated to Heath Park and 20 Trees to Bute Park Arboretum. Trees had previously been donated to Bute Park but were destroyed by an act of sick vandalism, but, in keeping with the aims of the project, further trees and an additional ceremony were held to show how the friendship has to endure and overcome the acts of a mindless minority.
The 100 trees, in two avenues either side of a stream, in Heath Park will be particularly impressive when they have matured and I look forward to seeing those in the future when in the city (although I live in Cardiff now not that far from Heath Park, the trees won’t be at their best until after I have probably moved away). Who knows, maybe the first time that I ever do hanami will be in Cardiff (despite living in Japan and my numerous trips to Japan, I’ve yet to do hanami).
From my perspective as someone who lives in Cardiff, lectures and studies about Japan, and is interested in the symbolism of sakura (it even featured on the front cover of the first edition of my book Japan: The Basics, in which I discuss the symbolic side of sakura), I found it particularly interesting to attend the events, listen to the speeches, and to try to imagine what it will all look like in years to come. Beyond the obvious links between the UK and Japan and what the trees represent, I will also be interested to see how local people react to them in due course since I have often noticed a stronger cultural overlap between many Welsh and Japanese people than between British people more generally and many Japanese.
Here are some pictures that I took at the two events.