By David Hollinshead, Staff Writer
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]tarting this Thursday, from April 5 to the 20, the sixth annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival will be in season. The festival has grown to be a very popular event in Vancouver, celebrating not only the thousands of beautiful cherry trees throughout BC, but also the diversity of Japanese culture, as it brings people together in sparking international friendships and cross-country exchanges.
There are many things to check out at the festival this year. One such event is the Cherry Blossom Umbrella Dance, which celebrates the rain and blossoming of the cherry trees. Another is the Cherry Jam Downtown, where the Umbrella Dancers will be heading to Burrard SkyTrain with performances and lessons to those who wish to learn. The Jam also offers a special lunch box, prepared by some of the most accomplished Japanese chefs in Vancouver.
The Sakura Days Japan Fair is another event that takes place over two days, and includes cultural art, performances, and food. Guests will be able to sample premium sake, festival food, and even partake in a Japanese tea ceremony. In addition, there will be a children’s tent, where the kids can learn how to fold origami, dress in yukata (a type of kimono), experience storytelling, and exhibit Japanese toys. There will also be tree talks and walks, where observers can enjoy narrated journeys through the cherry orchards. There are several walks to go on, so you never know what you just might see.
Long before these many events (and more) were established, the festival began in 2005 as a non-profit society, based on the tradition of the Japanese Sakura Festivals. By 2007, the festival had expanded into a charitable event, featuring activities ranging from public lectures to musical performances to fine art and craft exhibitions. However, the festival didn’t have a secured home until 2008, when it was offered a place at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. It was there that the David C. Lam Cherry Grove was planted in honour of one of the festival’s kindest benefactors, nicknamed the “Blossom Benefactor,” David Lam (1923–2010). Thanks to him, gardens were planted across Metro Vancouver, and 37,000 trees now span, amongst other places, David Lam Park and the UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research.
Dr. Lam was a huge supporter of the festival, and showed his passion with many different stories and imparting “cherry wisdom” upon us all, exhibited in a quote displayed proudly on the festival’s website:
“’When you promise to do something, give it all you’ve got and be like the cherry. The cherry tree gives us everything it has: its beauty, fragrance, and colour, and asks for nothing in return. Alas, they have but only a short life; they give us everything they have to make us happy. I am mindful of the shortness of my own life,’ and with all of us helping, he wished to make his life the fullest and make as many people happy as possible.”
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival will have all of the events listed and more taking place throughout the city during April. Be sure to start your spring off right, and come out to celebrate this fantastic cultural experience.