Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
On April 22nd was the annual cherry blossom hanami festival in Stockholm (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”), Sweden. It's an event organized by the Japanese Association, and we were very happy to see that they - once Read more
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Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
On April 22nd was the annual cherry blossom hanami festival in Stockholm (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”), Sweden. It’s an event organized by the Japanese Association, and we were very happy to see that they – once again – succeeded in setting the date just in time for the cherry trees to be in full bloom. As previous years, we were there to enjoy Japanese food and entertainment. Here is a video and some photos from the day.
Lots of people gathered in Kungsträdgården for a mini shows of various performances.
Sakurakören (Sakura Choir) and Yuko Matsushita (on flute) entertained the crowd with their music.
Hello Kitty was the festival’s ambassador. She walked around the stalls and let the visitors take photos with her.
There was a mixture of stalls, as there always are. Some of them were Othello the board game and Mangakai, club for manga and anime enthusiasts.
Japanese flower arrangement, ikebana, was on show with some beautiful examples of what can be achieved.
In one of the stalls you could be show how to fold origami, and in another stall you could try on a kimono.
There was a small selection of stalls offering Japanese food. The one we went for was Japanese croquette from Tokyo Soul Kitchen, it was the right choice because it was really delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Naoko Kikuchi played the Shamisen, a Japanese string instrument, for the onlooking crowd.
Nicklas Nordquist gave a short introduction to what cosplay is. After his introduction a few cosplayers showed off their costumes. Wadaiko-Maiko performed a traditional Taiko drums show for everyone.
Kenshou Kyudo Kai Kyudo club gave a demonstration in Kyudo, Japanese archery.
Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival
It’s hanami season and the blossoming of the cherry trees is sweaping across Japan. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been enjoying seeing photos and videos from Japan, of the pink and white flowers on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Now it’s finally our turn here in Sweden to do some cherry blossom viewing. To kick off the season we attended Körsbärsblommans Dag, Sakura Matsuri, which is the annual cherry blossom festival day in Stockholm, arranged by the Japanese Association. You never know if the trees will be in bloom during the festival, and this year they had just started coming out. We will try and come back later in the week, to see them in full bloom.
There were performances on stage throughout the day. Wa-Taiko drums, a fashion show, dance performances, choirs and more. Even Hello Kitty made an appearance. Here is Satoko Salme doing a traditional Japanse dance performance.
There were also a lot of stalls spread around the area. You could find Japanese food, like teriyaki, and lots of different pastries. One stall was selling Belgian waffles, but with a Japanese touch for the day, matcha or azuki waffles. Here’s a matcha waffle with whipped cream and cherries, perfect to eat during a cherry blossom viewing festival.
Other stalls had merchandise for sale. We were very happy to see FUKU iro Pierce ear rings available for purchase. After the Fukushima earth quake and the Nuclear power plant incident, local women from the area started making these ear rings to have something to focus on and to feel hopeful about the future. They ear rings are made of Aizu cotton from Aizu, a safe area in the Fukushima prefecture, and acrylic resin.
Other stalls had cute stuff for sale, like lots of Totoro, accessories, makeup, stationary and more. J-Fashion Sweden were also there, an association for people interested in Japanese street fashion.
Every year I enjoy looking at the wonderful bonsai that the Swedish Bonsai Association has for display. We used to have a little bonsai before, but it died during the winter months. Mangakai, for people interested in manga and anime, also had their own stall at the festival.
Hello Kitty was on stage, and when her appearance was over and she was walking away from the festival, she stopped for anyone who wanted a photo or a hug. She was adorable and made a lot of people happy.
We saw lots of people cosplaying, like the beautiful Nathy in this amazing costume. You can visit her page on Facebook here: Nathy on Facebook
All in all, it was a lovely event, just like previous years. Shame about the weather this time though. It was chilly and rainy. But still, a lot of people came anyway to enjoy a little bit of hanami.
Halloween is growing in Japan year by year (we are seeing the same here in Sweden). It seems with more and more influences from America and other counties, Halloween is becoming more and more popular.
With the presence of places like Disneyland in Tokyo and Universal Studios in Osaka having up to a month of celebrations for Halloween, and with companies understanding that Halloween is a good way to sell stuff, Halloween is everywhere.
Lots of companies have limited edition products for sale under the lead up to Halloween. McDondals have a burger with a black bun to make them seem more spooky, KitKat have released pumpkin flavored KitKats and some companies just rebrand the packages to suit Halloween.
People in Tokyo love to dress up for Halloween and with Halloween costumes on sale in big discounts stores like Don Quijote, it can be quite hectic to look around the shops around Halloween, with loads of people out to buy their costumes before Halloween.
There are lots of Halloween events on in Japan, like festivals for the family and nightclubs for the older crowd. One of the events in Shibuya was the Street Party Costume, where you could find thousands of people all dressed up for Halloween walking around and taking photos of each other. People were genuinely having a fun time! How often can you say that you saw a whole gang of minions crossing the world famous crossing in Shibuya? Group of friends like to dress up all as the same character, like a group of minions, or charachters that go together, like Super Mario and Luigi. From the pictures I’ve seen online (sites like tokyofashion.com) people spend a lot of time on their costumes, and in some cases also lots of money, to get their costume just right. No surprise, since the whole cosplay culture comes from Japan.
Even though Halloween is a very commercial holiday of sorts, it is still a lot of fun. Have a look at the video above to see just how much fun it can be!
MCM Comic Con London and Japan EX is held two times a year at the Excel Centre in London. Comic Con is spread out over two and a half days, from Friday afternoon and through the whole weekend. Early-entry tickets were available on the weekend, and they got you into the convension two hours before the on-the-door tickets where admitted to the convention.
We visited Comic Con on Saturday 26th October 2013 and we had bought early entre tickets. We made our way up to London early in the morning. Once we got close to the Excel Centre it was just a sea of people in cosplay, all walking to the convention. Every where we looked we saw people dressed in cosplay, from movies and anime to comics and manga.
Once we arrived, we had to stand in a a que for about 30-40mins. When we got in we heard that around 66.000 had bought early entrance tickets, so we knew it was going to be very busy. Once we got in, we found the the section named Japan EX, our main reason for visiting Comic Con.
Japan EX is like its own convention within Comic Con. Most of the Japanese stalls ate all placed in one section of the main Comic Con hall. While walking around the Japan EX section we founds loads of stalls selling lots of different products.
One was selling lots of Japanese sweets. They had a great selection of Japanese KitKat boxes, something that’s very popular in Japan. They had many different flavours, like green tea, wasabi, cheesecake and more. You could either buy a box or buy the small individual packs that you find in the box . We did find them to be a bit expense tho, so we decided to wait until the next time we are in Japan.
Other stalls were selling lots of kawaii products, from plushies and other cute stuff to lots of stationary, which seem to be very popular. Tofu Cute had its own stall, selling lots of kawaii products. There was also several food stalls selling different sorts of dishes, like Takoyako, Yakisoba and Korokke. We tried the Yakisoba with Takoyaki, and the Takoyaki was delicious!
We found a couple of stalls selling Japanese figurines and there were a few stalls that sold manga. Some stalls sold more traditional Japanese products, like chopsticks, clothes and small bowls. We bought a couple of cute bowls (see photos below). Theyre actually rice bowls, but we decided to use them for sweets instead.
There was a small stage set up where they showcased different things, like music, culture and fashion. We found other stalls in the rest of Comic Con that sold more Japanese products. One of them stalls was run by Art Box, a shop that is in London, and they sold a mixture of kawaii products from Japan.
Game Expo was another section of Comic Con. There we found of most of Japan’s biggest video gaming companies showing off their new games that are to hit the markets. Nintendo, Tecmo Koei, Namco Bandai, Square Enix, and Konami were all present at Game Expo.
MCM used one of its theatres to showcase some new up and coming games. They had a lot of guests that worked one way or another with video games. They talked about their games they had worked and they also did an Q&A as well. Most of them had come over from Japan to give their talks and most talks were in Japanese with an English translator on stage with them.
By the time we had seen all this, the crowds were becoming more and more and it was a bit hard to move around. It was still great to watch all the great cosplayers walking around. Most people had spent so much time on designing their outfits, it was quite amazing to say the least. If you are just going for the Japanese stuff of Comic Con (like Japan EX and Game Expo) you won’t be disappointed. Comic Con has a lot to offer. I do recommend that you do buy the early entrance ticket online. It will save you so much time when you get there. No one likes standing in queues, but at least with Comic Con queues you get to see all the cosplayer outfits.
Every year the Japanese Society in Sweden celebrates hanami by organising Cherry Flower Day Festival (Körsbärsblommans Dag) in Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. Kungsträdgården is an urban park area with a big fountain in the middle that is surrounded by lots of cherry trees. The blossoming of the cherry trees is a very special time in Japan (Ive written about it here) and I think its so lovely to have a bit of Japanese culture in Stockholm during this time.
Because of the cold spring we’ve had this year, the blossoming of the cherry trees has been delayed, and we only have little buds at the moment. But that didnt stop the festival. The sun was shining and it was a lovely warm day!
We saw lots of lolitas, coplayers and people dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, like kimono. It was great to see so many Swedish young people being so into the Japanese culture. The lolitas pink looked amazing!
Traditional Japanese culture
Traditional Japanese culture was represented in the stalls. Bonsai, shodo, furoshiki, igo, origami, try on a kimono and lots more.
Lots of things to see
The stalls also had Lolita fashion for sale, there was a café, manga exhibition, kawaii games to try… There were fashion shows and performances with taiko drums, songs and dance. So much to see!
Here are some more photos from the festival:
Have you been to any Japanese festivals in another coutry outside of Japan?