Sakura Picnic Day
“A beautiful event!”
“We saw beautiful cherry blossoms in April when we visited Japan this year but we had no idea that we could enjoy them again in Melbourne!”
“We loved watching a tea ceremony demonstration and trying actual ‘Matcha and Japanese sweets’!”
“Awesome! Just awesome! A little piece of Japan right here in the suburbs of Melbourne. Wonderful!"
So many smiles and happy voices we saw and heard at our family event, "Sakura Picnic day.” This year's event, held at the Banksia Park off Templestowe Rd in Bulleen on Sunday 15 October, was in for a special treat with a gorgeous sunny day and many, many families and friends (more than 1,500 visitors!) enjoying their picnics and experiencing the Japanese “Hanami- cherry blossom viewing”.
Some people who know much about “Sakura culture in Japan” would know how lucky it was to have so many beautiful cherry flower trees blooming in time for the actual event as cherry trees bloom fully only for a very limited time (1-to-2 weeks) and it is difficult to pick when they will actually bloom. They are very climate-sensitive trees! Melbourne’s changeable weather, four-seasons-in-one-day, makes it even harder to guess. That made it even more spectacular to see so many cherry trees in full bloom on the Grove this Sunday!
People also enjoyed Ikebaba (flower arrangement), Japanese drums, Koto (a Japanese harp), Kendo performances, children making “origami” and other outdoor nature plays.
Another very popular highlight was a “tea ceremony demonstration” supported by our member, Chado Urasenke Tankokai Melbourne. Many members of Uraenke wearing beautiful kimono prepared more than 60 serves of green tea on the site. People gathered to watch their beautiful tea ceremony demonstrations and also enjoyed trying a proper Matcha (green tea) in delicate traditional ceramic bowls and cute Japanese sweets. A big "Thank you!" for the generous gold-coin donations to purchase tickets for green tea and sweets. All these donations will go towards maintaining the cherry trees at the Grove.
We overheard several people talking about a recent article in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper describing the history of these cherry trees. On January 17, 1980, then Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira gifted one hundred cherries to the people of Victoria to mark his visit to Melbourne. They were planted originally in Jell’s park, but did not fare well due to the soil and wind. The surviving 65 trees were rescued and transplanted to Banksia Park two years later but their condition was miserable until Yasuko Nakagawa’s help.
In 2015, she helped establish the Cherry Friends, a volunteer group of "Japanese seniors" who, in spring and autumn, apply liquid fertiliser to the trees every two weeks and, in summer, water them twice a week. Now a park ranger visits the trees a few times a week as well and has embarked on a program of disease-control, pruning, weeding and mulching.
Now those cherry trees are looking much happier and it will improve even more thanks to expert advice from the horticulturalists of Olinda’s National Rhododendron Gardens. Moves are also underway to secure funding for paths, seats and signage.
It was such a happy atmosphere! Families and friends enjoyed their picnic under a beautiful Spring blue sky in the shade of the beautiful cherry trees. People with serious-looking cameras taking shots of Sakura flowers, children happily running around, people walking their dogs under a perfect sunny day.
This event was made possible through the extraordinary efforts and collaboration of the Japanese Society of Melbourne, the Australia Japan Society of Victoria, the Manningham City Council, Parks Victoria and the Rotary Club of Templestowe. We’ll see you all there again next year!