• Kyodo

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A small Scottish seaside town is preparing to bring in an element of Japanese culture as it gears up to host an annual festival starting Saturday inspired by “hanami” cherry-blossom viewing.

“In Helensburgh, we have a huge number of flowering cherry trees and I’ve always thought that we should celebrate this wonderful display of blossom,” said Anne Urquhart, who organized the festival.

The weeklong festivities — officially called the Lomond and Clyde Springfest — are now entering their third year after Urquhart realized her dream of organizing an event to draw attention to the town’s cherry trees in 2005.

“I knew there were other festivals like this, but nothing in the U.K. really, so I’d been looking on the Internet and becoming more aware of the Japanese tradition of hanami and the celebration that ensues,” she said of her source of inspiration.

“Initially, I wanted to raise the awareness of the trees in the town, to bring people to see them, and also to help try and find ways of conserving the trees. That was the starting point,” Urquhart said, seemingly unaware at the time of how the festival might grow into the extravaganza it is today.

The 2007 Springfest is set to take in numerous events, many with a Japanese twist, including tea ceremony demonstrations, origami and calligraphy workshops, and “taiko” drum shows.

“The face painting will also have a Japanese theme. The first year we did face painting, we had a load of wee Japanese warriors running around,” Urquhart exclaimed, emphasizing the fun to be had in the family event.

As convener of the festival, she was also quick to point out the support and contributions of the community and organizations such as the Glasgow-based Scottish-Japanese Residents Association, which will be hosting a public kimono-wearing session.

The result is that the Japanese tradition is both enjoyed and well-received among the town’s residents, who are said to have an appetite for “anything a wee bit different,” and, in turn, Japanese people have come to take in the festival, she said.

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