Monaco Life was invited to the exclusive launch of the ‘Cherry Blossom, Make A Wish’ event at the Hôtel de Paris organised by The High Life Monaco and officially opened by Prince Albert.
It was an official opening at the highest level on Thursday 25th March, bringing together the Prince, Vice-President of his Foundation Olivier Wenden, CEO of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) Jean-Luc Biamonti, and some of the Principality’s most significant philanthropists.
Organised by Mayu Wittouck, founder of The High Life Monaco and wife of billionaire resident Eric Wittouck, the event is designed to take visitors on a journey to the heart of Japanese tradition, with all proceeds going to the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
The stunning scene is set with pink cherry blossom trees that fill the luxurious courtyard of the Hôtel de Paris. Perfectly manicured Japanese gardens and gently flowing water fountains are nestled amongst enormous Mediterranean palms, all conjuring a sense of zen in the beating heart of the Principality.
‘Cherry Blossom, Make A Wish’ at the Hôtel de Paris was originally scheduled to take place last year but was postponed because of the pandemic. It seems perhaps even more fitting that it be held this year.
This celebration, hanami, of the arrival of spring and the blooming of sakura (cherry blossoms), is a recognition of the ephemeral nature of life, a symbol of rebirth and hope that comes to Monaco at a time when everyone is looking forward to a brighter future.
“This particular event has been organised by a close friend of the foundation to celebrate the spring,” Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Vice-President Olivier Wenden told Monaco Life, “and in my mind, celebrating the spring means celebrating birth and renewal. This is the kind of spirit which animates the foundation today with the post pandemic world, and the bloom or green shift we can implement. It’s a symbol of hope for a future that can rely more on the solutions and opportunities for the ocean rather than the obstacles and challenges.”
Prince Albert was the first to write his wish to the kami (gods) on a small wooden plaque called an ema and hang it on a portico, traditionally positioned at the entrance of a shrine.
Until 10th April, the public is also invited to purchase their ema and write their wishes to the gods, before all the wooden plaques are ritually burned and the wishes liberated from their writers.
It is one of many traditions that is available to experience over the two-week event. Creative workshops will be held in the glass houses teaching the art of origami (paper folding), ikebana (flower arranging) and calligraphy. The little ones can discover the art of Japanese storytelling with kamishibai, while Chef Phillippe Joannès and his team have been busy creating delectable Japanese-themed treats.
“We created chocolate geishas and sumos, bonsai trees and sakura eggs, kawai biscuits, and cakes,” Pastry Department Manager Ken Thomas told Monaco Life. “There are different kinds of breads and brioche, some shaped like sushi or carrots in the theme of Easter.”
Available for takeaway, the treats can also be enjoyed after a delicious Japanese lunch, prepared by a sushi master every day in the courtyard for reserved guests. Japanese beer, sake, and a Japanese-themed cocktail round out the culinary offerings.
To comply with health measures, reservations for the workshops and lunch are needed, and numbers are understandably restricted. But it is another example of how Monaco is able to maintain a certain level of culture and lifetyle in these challenging times.
“This is exactly our objective, under the leadership of the Prince and his government,” Jean-Luc Biamonti told Monaco Life. “We don’t want to have a dead city, so we are trying, within the constraints, to stay alive. Therefore, we organise these types of events. Normally, for an opening like this, there would be hundreds of people in this patio; today it’s limited to 36. So yes, we are keeping these events, trying to show that Monaco is alive, even if it is within those constraints unfortunately. But we are not stopping, we are fighting.”
In keeping with its “100% donation policy”, all money generated from ‘Cherry Blossom, Make a Wish’ will go towards the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation’s BeMed initiative, which aims for a plastic-free Mediterranean sea. To raise awareness among young visitors, the foundation has its own glasshouse where, through playful activities, children will learn about the challenges facing the ocean.