For the past few years, the Kawasaki Reading Room has hosted small celebrations of tea time in honor of Hanami, a Japanese cherry blossom festival. This year, the Kawasaki Reading Room will expand the popular Japanese celebration into a larger event at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
On Friday, April 19, this resource center for Japanese studies will host Hanami: Cherry Blossom Festival from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center in Room 302. The festival will include music and activities, such as an encaustic art style workshop and a chance to build personal japanese lunch boxes known as bento boxes.
According to Anastasia Dehtyarenko, a senior global studies major and undergraduate assistant for the Kawasaki Room, Hanami is traditionally celebrated as a day-long picnic under cherry blossom trees where friends and families can relax, drink alcohol and occasionally sing karaoke. Dehtyarenko said the celebration originated centuries ago in China with the viewing of plum blossom trees, which are darker versions of cherry blossoms.
“I’m sure many people don’t even know about Hanami, so hopefully they will learn about such an ancient festival,” she said.
Naomi Rodriguez, a graduate student in educational administration and the Kawasaki Reading Room’s graduate assistant, said cherry blossom season is only a single week in April and can be shorter depending on the weather. As the season approaches, she said there is a great level of anticipation from Japanese people because with it comes the Hanami festival.
“Every year in January, they release a forecast when they think the cherry blossoms are going to bloom because, again, it’s such a big thing,” she said. “Everybody is trying to be ready. It’s like Christmas level high alert and when it hits, it’s a total frenzy.”
Guest artist Margaret Berry will lead a workshop for people to create their own cherry blossom-themed encaustic style piece, created primarily by using melted wax. There will also be popular Japanese music and a short presentation from Dehtyarenko explaining what Hanami is.
There will be stations set up for Japanese desserts as a way of replicating the Japanese food stands typically seen at festivals. Rodriguez said the event is meant to bring a version of the Hanami celebration in Japan to UNL.
“We are just doing a homage to the celebration,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s going to be a little bit more Americanized than the traditional style would be.”
Dehtyarenko said Hanami is symbolic of the coming of spring, fertility and pureness, and it also symbolizes the fragility of life. In the same way the cherry blossom season comes and goes in only a short period, people can see that reflected all throughout life. This celebration is a chance for people to stop and enjoy the moment, however short it may be.
“The cherry blossom’s life is so short and pretty and it ends really fast,” she said.
This Japanese celebration is an opportunity for students to take a break from school, enjoy themselves and meet new people. Joseph Vlach, a sophomore English major, said he is excited to take part in a celebration that will hopefully spark more interest in Japanese culture.
“It’s a great opportunity to somewhat experience what Japan is like without ever having been there,” he said. “Just to get a taste, obviously, it’s not the real thing but you kind of get an idea, and it cultivates more intercultural interest.”
Rodriguez said she hopes students who attend the celebration walk away less stressed and with a sense of excitement for the upcoming summer. The Hanami festival in Japan is a time when people take off work, take a break and have fun.
“Especially after the long winter, you want to relax and you want to feel like you are ready to have that summer fun and to have some free time to do things other than study,” she said. “I hope students come away feeling a little more relaxed, especially going into finals week.”