'Cherry Blossom' in Khabarovsk Marks First Stage of Large Japanese Festival in Russia

The Japanese Cherry Blossom festival has opened in Khabarovsk (Russia's Far East).

"The project is aimed at strengthening mutual understanding and friendship between Russian and Japanese people," Vice-Consul of the Japanese General Consulate in Khabarovsk Takahiro Yamasaki told a RIA Novosti correspondent.

According to Takahiro Yamasaki, the Cherry Blossom festival is held as the first stage of a large Japanese festival in Russia, which will last till March 2004.

The Cherry Blossom festival was preceded by a contest for the best expert on Japan organised by the Japanese Consulate General in Khabarovsk jointly with the Russian-Japanese friendship society and the regional Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda newspaper.

During the festival actors from the Japanese prefectures of Okinawa and Aomori will give a big concert, Melodies of the North and the South, to be crowned by a recital of the two countries' actors.

The festive program also includes performances of Japanese conductor Nisimoti Tomomi and pianist Aoki Yeko with the Far Eastern philharmonic orchestra, a contest of reports and essays in Japanese made by Khabarovsk university students and an exhibition, Blooming Sakura.

There will also be concerts of Japanese national songs; an art exhibition, Japan through Children's Eyes; a contest for the best haiku poem about Khabarovsk and a karaoke contest.

This autumn and next spring are to see tea ceremonies, ikebana flower exhibitions and a calligraphy exhibition, a kimono show and Japanese ceramics expositions.