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University celebrates Hanami festival

Thursday, 21 September 2017 8:20am

A group gathers under the University's flowering cherry trees during the annual Hanami festival held at Otago. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The University once again celebrated the Japanese cherry blossom viewing festival of Hanami yesterday – welcoming spring and new beginnings.

The annual event has been held at under the cherry trees outside the University’s Clocktower building on a casual basis since 1997, introduced by Haruko Stuart of the Japanese programme of the Department of Languages and Cultures.

"The most important thing about this party for me is to share our culture with as many people as possible."

“I started off this party as a casual get together to enjoy the beauty of sakura with my students,” Mrs Stuart says. “But this year is the eighth year of the party since it became an official, annual, big event at the University in spring.”

This year’s party was held in conjunction with the Dunedin-Otaru Sister City Society, and attracted more than 200 attendees.

Mrs Stuart says that in Japan, cherry blossom trees are believed to be the symbol of hope and new beginnings because they bloom in April when a new semester starts at school and a new fiscal year starts in a company.

“Aristocrats during the Nara and Heian periods (710 -1185) used to admire sakura cherry blossom trees too, so hanami cherry blossom viewing is a centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura,” she says.

“The most important thing about this party for me is to share our culture with as many people as possible, to enjoy the culture together and to raise awareness of sharing, enjoying and appreciating any other cultures, not just Japanese culture.”

More photos from the festival: