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LONDON — Anybody turning up at London’s Hyde Park to walk their dog on the morning of Saturday, May 19, could have been forgiven for thinking they’d wandered into some kind of space and time warp. Instead of a few squirrels and strollers enjoying the pale, watery sunshine, they would have found a full-blown Japanese matsuri in progress. If they weren’t surprised to see taiko drummers smashing open sake barrels, they might have been shocked by the sight of a group of bald, middle-aged Japanese men in traditional robes carrying a golden mikoshi around at an admirable trot with dozens of excitable British kids in tow, or a host of other events that have no real business being in your average London park.

If our hypothetical dog-walker had stopped to think, he or she might have remembered a few warning signs, such as the posters and TV programs announcing the countless events and exhibitions which, along with the Matsuri in the Park, are part of Japan 2001, a 12-month series of cultural events being held around Britain with the object of promoting and developing an awareness of Japan.

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