Hanami in Strahov Monastery

Allow me to tell you more about Hanami festival in Prague.

On April 1st, festival of Japanese culture called Hanami took place in the courtyard of the Strahov Monastery. The event was organized by the Strahov Brewery. The idea of presenting Japanese culture while brewing occasional batch of sakura beer led to an ambitious project because the cultured family of the owner of the brewery happen to be admirers of Japanese culture. The Strahov Brewery itself has long-term ties to Japan, for example several Japanese brewers studied there.

The project of Hanami, the Japanese culture festival was conceived as a celebration of beauty, friendship, joy of spring and,in a metaphorical sense, the long-lasting tradition of exceptional Czech-Japanese relations.

The event was also visited by His Excellency Japanese Ambassador Suzuki Hideo, H.E. British Ambassador Matthew Field (graduated Japanologist and lover of Japanese culture), H.E. Swedish Ambassador Fredrik Jörgensen and more than three thousand visitors.

The informal part of the event was started by a parade of samurai (in some cases wearing armor weighing up to fifty kilograms) and kimonos "marching" to the sound of a taiko drum from Wenceslas Square, through Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and Nerudova Street to the venue in the Old Slavonic Premonstratensian Strahov Monastery. Despite the organizers' concerns, the weather was pleasant throughout the whole day of the event.

The rich program, which was put together by "Czech samurai" and a long-time promoter of traditional Japanese culture Jakub Zeman, introduced various performers often of the highest level in their fields. For example, the tea ceremony master of the Urasenke school, the holder of a kyoju professor's license, Markéta Fujita Reiter, has the highest master level in the whole Europe. The karate demonstration was undertaken by sensei Vladimír Budín, holder of the 6th master degree and world champion in this art together with his colleaagues from SKIF organization. Japanese dance nihon bujō of the Nishikawa ryu school was demonstrated by Ajna Kenning from the United States, the art of the Japanese sword by "Czech samurai" Jakub Zeman with his friends from the Hakuzan dojo (school martial arts) and friends from other dojos. The Taikai competitions in Tameshigiri (sword cutting test) and Gekiken (free fencing with softened swords), in both cases with international participation, were also very attractive to spectators. Visitors could also look forward to amazing samurai in armor and their epic fight scenes (living history group Gorin), a kimono fashion show with a workshop on how to propperly dress kimono (kimono club and Karolína Suková), or Japanese tea prepared by the multiple winner in this discipline, Karl Glaser, who also enriched the program by exhibition of traditional ju-jutsu. There was also an open competition in composing Haiku poems, judged by leading personalities of the genre in the Czech Republic (Pavel Martinec, Katka Soustužníková). The winning Haiku by Robert Šimer reads:

Večerní Petřín

bezdomovec nasává

vůni šeříků.

The exhibition of original historical Japanese swords was organized by the Japanese Sword study Association called Nihontó kenkyūkai at the Czech-Japan Association with its chairman Tomáš Suk, who provided insightful information on the topic. Ikebana, the art of flowers´ arrangment, was demonstrated by Ms. Fumi Kohara, from the Sógecu School. Bold Gallery, which also deals with art of the Far East lended gems of Japanese art from its funds, including several paintings of painter Moemi Yamamoto, the rising star living and creating in Czech Republic. Ink monochrome painting was represented by the exhibition of the sensitive artist Helga Hrabincová, whose paintings reveal a strong relationship with nature. The art of photography was represented by work with the Japanese theme of the Prague Photography School and Barbara Jab Janů. The artistic part was complemented by a live calligraphy performance (Jiří Straka jr.) or "living painting" (Daniela Renčová).

Thanks to the collaboration with the Japanese pop culture festival Advík the world of Japanese pop culture was represented with cosplay competitions, so fans of Manga and Anime genres also had a great time. There was also the most beautiful kimono competition.

Between the individual demonstrations, visitors could refresh themselves with the local star of the event, the delicious sakura beer "St. Norbert sakura amber ale", or gastronomic gems of Japanese cuisine including sushi, great Japanese Nikka whiskey or beer ice cream from Angelato. And great tea from "Dobrá Čajovna" teahouse on Wenceslas Square, by the way the oldest teahouse in Bohemia.

The event was ended at about 8pm with the breathtaking themed Fireshow "Taiyo to tsuki" by Tereza Kerle and Viktor Artner. Although the event was successful, its high attendance will require much larger spatial capacities in the coming years. Not least due to its great location near Prague Castle Hanami in Strahov has the potential to become one of the biggest regular events of Japanese culture in Prague.

Author Jakub Zeman