In 2006 the Helsinki City Public Works Department received a proposal from local resident Norio Tomida regarding the creation of a cherry orchard. The idea was that the Japanese community in Helsinki would donate cherry trees to the city as a sign of gratitude for what a good place Helsinki is to live in. Inspired by Norio Tomida, Japanese residents throughout Finland joined in to donate the trees.
The “Good Grows in Helsinki” movement of the Publics Work Department liked the idea and began also to look for corporate sponsors who would be interested in helping to cover the costs of establishing and maintaining the park. The first companies who expressed an interest were Toyota Motor Finland Oy, which imports Toyota and Lexus cars, Simetron Group Oy, which imports Suzuki and Isuzu cars, Brother Finland Oy, which supplies office equipment, and www.furuno.fi, which imports maritime navigation equipment.
The three-year park project creates a lasting memory for donors, participating companies and local residents alike.
A local park in the Roihuvuori district between the streets Sahaajankatu and Abraham Wetterin tie was selected for the site of the Cherry Orchard, as a popular Japanese garden is already located in the vicinity. The sunny slope on the south side of the water tower is also ideal for growing cherry trees.
The cherry orchard was realised by Japanese residents in Finland, the City of Helsinki and sponsoring companies between 2007 and 2009. We planted 152 cherry trees, creating a splendid orchard for residents and visitors to enjoy. The first 50 trees were planted in the summer of 2007, the next 50 in 2008 and the last 52 in 2009.
At the same time the park’s lighting, paths and furniture were renewed. Connecting the Cherry Orchard and the Japanese garden is a renovated and signposted 700-metre-long forest path. The orchard and park have become a popular attraction for Japanese tourists, local residents and other Finns – especially in the springtime when the trees are in blossom. The local residents’ association in Roihuvuori has organised a “Hanami” cherry blossom festival each year since 2008.
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The planting of the first 52 cherry trees was celebrated on World Environment Day, 5 June 2007. Participating in the event were the Japanese donators of the trees, corporate sponsors and around 100 other supporters. The opening speech was given by Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri. Minister Nagasaki from the Embassy of Japan also honoured the event with his presence. Many members of the press also attended the event. Many photos were taken of Norika Salo, the wife of Finnish Formula One driver Mika Salo and one of the donators of the trees.
A plaque with the names of the donators and sponsors was unveiled at the warm-spirited event, and guests got to enjoy delicious sushi and other Japanese treats prepared by Norio Tomida, the originator of the Cherry Orchard idea.
Hanami, which translates as “flower viewing”, is the biggest annual festival in Japan. The festival takes place when the cherry trees are in blossom, so the exact dates vary each year according to weather conditions.
The first Hanami festival in Helsinki was held at the Cherry Orchard in Roihuvuori on 11 May 2008.
“We Japanese would like to express our gratitude to the Finns by means of the Cherry Orchard. In so doing we want to provide an experience of our own culture that will leave a lasting impression,” says Norio Tomida, who has lived in Finland for almost twenty years. One of Norio’s inspirations for the Cherry Orchard was the famous park in Washington DC, which was also realised with the help of corporate sponsors.
Helsinki City Public Works Department
Project Manager Elina Nummi
tel. +358 (0)50 388 1410