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Gardens by the Bay's sakura display returns with Japanese pop-culture icon

The exhibition returns to its full splendour after the COVID pandemic, with displays evoking train travelling in Japan

There will be a meet-and-greet session with Sakura Afro Pikachu (middle), which will be making its first appearance outside of Japan in the Flower Dome.
There will be a meet-and-greet session with Sakura Afro Pikachu (middle), which will be making its first appearance outside of Japan, in the Flower Dome. (PHOTO: Gardens By The Bay)

SINGAPORE — Visitors to the Gardens by the Bay can now enjoy a slice of Japan with the return of the popular sakura (cherry blossom) floral display to its full splendour.

The Sakura Afro Pikachu from Japan will be at the Flower Dome's garden for the first time. The display is also said to be inspired by the theme of train travel as it evokes scenic train journeys in iconic spots in Japan such as Mount Fuji.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat launched the display alongside Hiroshi Ishikawa, ambassador of Japan to Singapore, and Gardens by the Bay (GBTB) chief executive Felix Loh on Wednesday (15 March).

Visitors can experience the Japanese culture

Having been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for the past few years, the floral display will be back to its full splendour this time around.

As part of the exhibits, there will be torii gates from Japan, a toy train that circles a miniature Mount Fuji as well as a collection of Pokémon figurines, such as Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Pikachu.

Visitors can also engage in various public activities for the first time since the pandemic, including meet-and-greet sessions with Sakura Afro Pikachu this weekend (18 and 19 March). Other highlights include traditional tea ceremony demonstrations, musical and folk dance performances, and Japanese floral arrangement workshops.

Marziah Omar, GBTB's senior assistant director of conservatory operations, told Yahoo News Singapore that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the supply of cherry blossom trees worldwide last year.

She revealed that her team were tempted to cancel the show during the pandemic, but many people persuaded them to continue. This year is the eighth consecutive year they have brought cherry blossoms to Singapore, and it is the only uninterrupted floral display to date at Gardens by the Bay.

Exhibits include torii gates from Japan, a toy train that circles a miniature Mount Fuji and Pokémon figurines, such as Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Pikachu.
Exhibits include torii gates from Japan, a toy train that circles a miniature Mount Fuji and Pokémon figurines, such as Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Pikachu. (PHOTO: Gardens By The Bay)

Setting up the Sakura display

The display will feature six types of cherry blossoms suited to Singapore's climate, such as the Kiku-Shidare-Zakura, or weeping Japanese flowering cherry trees.

Marziah said, "Even if you go to Japan, all the Sakura won't bloom at the same time. There are those who bloom earlier and later. Even if they travel from South to North, there is a difference in temperature and even the variety of Sakura."

She was inspired to conceptualise the display after watching a Japan travel documentary last year, and went about setting up the exhibits when the display materials were delivered in February.

Her team had to wait until post-visiting hours after 9pm to plant the various Sakura. Several other factors must also be considered when setting up the display, such as scheduling, maintenance and logistical issues such as the need for machinery like forklifts.

GBTB chief executive Loh believes in the significance of cherry blossoms, calling their fleeting beauty the essence of the sakura displays.

"Such transient fragility is a reminder to everyone to slow down, take notice of our surroundings...and cherish each moment as well as those around us," he said during the launch held at Gardens by the Bay.

Ishikawa, the ambassador of Japan to Singapore, said he hopes visitors can sincerely imagine that they are in Japan and encourage them to visit Japan to experience the cherry blossoms a second time.

The display runs until 9 April, from 9am to 9pm. For Singapore residents, admission to the Flower Dome is $8 per child and $12 per adult.

Ambassador of Japan to Singapore Hiroshi Ishikawa, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat and Gardens by the Bay Chief Executive Officer Felix Loh breaking a traditional sake barrel to mark the launch of the Sakura floral display.
(From left) Ambassador of Japan to Singapore Hiroshi Ishikawa, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat and Gardens by the Bay Chief Executive Felix Loh breaking a traditional sake barrel to signify the launch of the Sakura floral display at Gardens by the Bay. (PHOTO: Gardens by the Bay)

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