Stray picnic will raise funds to help Japan

A HARROGATE shopkeeper plans to raise £10,000 for the Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal – by holding a cherry blossom picnic.

Jez Willard, who owns The Japanese Shop in Westminster Arcade, will stage the event, called an ohanami, on the Stray’s Cherry Tree Walk on the May bank holiday, when it is hoped the cherry blossom will be in full bloom.

He said: “The ohanami is not a festival as such – there will be no loud music or bouncy castles – but some of our Japanese friends will be making and sharing some delicious Japanese food and demonstrating some origami and calligraphy.

“The idea is to enjoy a picnic with family and friends, appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossom, give a few pounds for a worthy cause and offer our thoughts and quiet contemplation for a community that right now needs all the help it can get.”

Mr Willard’s determination to do something to relieve the tsunami-hit communities of Japan stems from his love of the country and its people, which was kindled 15 years ago when he lived in Osaka.

He said: “When I was there, I was able to appreciate the kindness, generosity and graciousness of Japanese people. I am now married to a Japanese girl, Hiromi, and we have three young boys.

“Through The Japanese Shop we have enjoyed doing business with Japanese people for many years now and cannot begin to imagine the horror that many people have had to endure in recent weeks.

“We, along with many other people from the Japanese community in Harrogate, are determined to do everything we can to help those who have been affected by the tsunami.”

The ohanami, which will be held on Monday, May 2 from 12-4pm, is free to attend, but picnickers are asked to make a donation to the Red Cross Appeal.

They are also urged to walk or use public transport if possible, as there is no parking on the Stray.

Mr Willard added: “We would like to say doumo arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) to our sponsors, Harrogate Borough Council, the British Red Cross and Harrogate Round Table, who have all been extremely supportive of our idea.”

For further information, contact Jez Willard on 07771 650601 or email To make a contribution, go to or send a cheque payable to the British Red Cross to The Japanese Shop office.

l Oatlands Infants School is joining in with its own initiative.

Pupils at the school are busy making origami cranes to send to children at a school in Japan and these will feature messages of goodwill written by the children.

The children aim to make 1,000 of the paper birds.