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Macedonia: Sakura – Cherry Blossom Celebration in Skopje

Even though very few ethnic Japanese live in the Republic of Macedonia, many locals took part in the second annual celebration of Sakura – the festival of cherry blossoms in Macedonia's capital, Skopje. Organizers of the festivals included martial arts dojos and some prominent bloggers who recently started a collaborative blog, Japan@mk [MKD], and initiated spreading the word through the Macedonian blogosphere.

The festival took place on April 12, on a street lined with Japanese cherry trees in full bloom, next to Skopje's main square. The program consisted of martial arts demonstrations, reciting of haiku in Macedonian language, accompanied by music played on Japanese flute, making of origami, writing the names of participants in Japanese calligraphy, and tasting healthy products made of Japanese fungi.

Thanks to the social networking within the community, dozens of bloggers used the event to socialize, including several who came from other cities. Some of them, like Bi, Volan, Strumjan, and neW1, posted extensive photo-galleries afterwards, while others wrote posts with most favorable impressions. Nadezna and HibernusCorvus, posted their reasons why they didn't attend.

Sakura in Skopje
Members of Samurai Dojo in action. Photo by Volan.

Bi, one of the organizers and an Iaidō practitioner, wrote [MKD] about her insider experience:

The origami were quite successful, and were done in three booths… [for samurai hats, cranes, and cats]. The kids were very happy, and many of them took their samurai hats to Nahomi [Japanese lady who did calligraphy] to write their names in Japanese.

Nahomi got genuine Macedonian experience because the audience did not allow her to catch her breath. They crowded around her, handing papers under her nose to write their names in Japanese, without any order. They even overturned her ink. She was confused because the people could not form a line, but accepted all requests with grace and impeccable manners…

The haiku turned out great, and the three guests read poetry by classic Japanese masters and by Macedonian poets. Some in the audience turned a deaf ear on this, and complained of boredom… Other audience members provided an unpleasant experience of rude curiosity, by grabbing and even drawing the swords and the bokken from the participants’ hands…

I hope next year we'll have an even more interesting and more beautiful program, with more elements, and the city will help with more than just providing space, and the consulate will provide more than just moral support. We had great time anyway, even when the uncultured mishaps mentioned above are taken into account :)

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