Tomorrow evening we will be lighting bonfires all other Sweden to celebrate the arrival of spring. Fair maidens will be singing in joyous anticipation. And over in the UK you will be greasing your maypoles and giving them a hearty rub to ensure they are ready for the rollicking revels that await.
So here’s a curate’s egg of a thread about a whole bunch of this sort of stuff. Go with the global flow of Spring.
In 1998, during Stockholm’s year as a European City of Culture, an elegant avenue of cherry trees was planted in Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. It soon became a spring tradition for Stockholmers to gather and enjoy the blossoms in April. You can’t hang around. Once you hear that the trees are in bloom, it’s time to plan a visit.
My daughter and I popped down on Saturday afternoon. One thing that struck me immediately was that watching the people was as much a part of the fun as the beauty of the trees. A lot of laughter and joy at meeting up with family and old friends. And lots of selfies. It’s a lovely spontaneous event. Nobody selling anything. No organised activities. No compere or programme.
The Swedes have a wonderful word for this: folkfest. (A people’s party). A fun, rather amateur, DIY event where everyone is welcome.
But what is the Japanese name for these cherry blossom celebrations?
I had to google. Wikipedia came up with the answer.
”Hanami (花見, “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers; flowers (hana) in this case almost always refer to those of the cherry (sakura) or, less frequently, plum (ume) trees.”
Once I got home I had to google 花見.
And I discovered my favourite YT clip of the week. Cherry Blossom on the Setouchi Islands in Japan’s Inland Sea. Three and half hours of the transient beauty of cherry blossom. Nothing happens but the sound of the waves and occasional birdsong. Wonderfully hypnotic. It sounds like something out of Pseud’s Corner. But give it a few minutes and you may surprise yourself.
My Finnish pal Juha once explained to me once how the Finns and the Japanese have a lot in common. “We let the silence speak.”
Anyway I told Mrs KFD about Setouchi Islands and her first thought was that it sounded very much like “Älgvandring,”
The great TV favourite here in Sweden right now is not Bridgerton, Cobra Kai or Lupin. No, it’s Älgvandring, a three-week-long piece of Slow TV broadcast from Umeå up in the north. We viewers can eavesdrop 24/7 on the local elk population as they migrate to their summer grazing areas. Moose on the Loose!
For the most part, very little happens. It’s wonderfully soothing viewing. She told me that this TV show is often on in certain schools where the kids can be a bit rowdy.
There’s nothing quite like a migrating moose to calm them down.
But suddenly there can be moments of great drama, such as earlier in the week when a calf went through the ice on a frozen river…A scary moment which mercifully had a happy ending.
Slow TV has really caught on in Scandinavia: long, live observations where little happens
There’s no Business like Slow Business.
Over to you!
Have you ever been in Japan during the Hatami celebrations?
Have you any favourite pieces of music, paintings, poem, movies which are characterised by an uncluttered, minimalistic, low-key spirit similar to the observation of cherry blosson?
I asked a waggish pal of mine whether they celebrate Hanami in Surrey.
”Oh yes Our version of Hanami involves sitting and contemplating the exquisite transience of a pie and a pint.”