Year of Japan to start in Russia in April 2003

The Year of Japan will start in Russia in April 2003. The action will begin in St. Petersburg, where a thousand sakuras will be planted in parks and gardens, Japanese Consul General to St. Petersburg Muramatsu Terumi told journalists on Wednesday.

Sakuras will be Japan's present to St. Petersburg's anniversary. The planting will be accompanied by national music. Musicians will play folk instruments - Japanese drums.

According to Terumi, Japanese experts are convinced that sakuras will take root in the severe climate of St. Petersburg. In autumn 2002 the scientist of the Japanese Sakura Society visited the city on the Neva river, studied its soil and weather conditions and decided that a sort of sakura from the island of Hokkaido, which don't suffer from severe climate, will be suitable for St. Petersburg.

Petersburg will host concerts of Japanese choirs and ballet companies, folk and wind music, the symphony orchestra of Hiroshima's prefecture, children's ensembles and Kabuki theatre, the Russian-Japanese friendly martial arts championship and exhibitions of articles of Japanese culture and life.

The Japanese Spring in St. Petersburg festival is timed to the 300th anniversary of the city. A business-seminar and master-classes on calligraphy, ikebana and koto music (koto is a Japanese national music instrument) will be held as part of the festival.

The events of the Year of Japan in Russia will be held in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and other Russian cities. The Year of Japan in Russia will end in March 2004.