The Cherry Blossoms
Having just returned from a meeting in Toronto, Mary and I decided to peruse the Tidal Basin in Washington DC where the world famous cherry blossoms were said to be in bloom. I’m glad that we did. The National Cherry Blossom Festival was just about to kick off, and by visiting on a weekday we avoided the crowds.
For my friends in the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world: The National Cherry Blossom Festival annually commemorates the 1912 gift to the city of Washington of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrate the continued close relationship between our two peoples.
In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of these trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. By 1915 the United States government had responded with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1927, a group of American school children reenacted the initial planting; the first festival was held in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the nation’s capital.
Mary relaxes for a moment on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, Cherry Blossom goods in hand. What many folks don’t know about the cherry trees around the tidal basin is that it is an ongoing project which has spanned many generations.
In 1965 three thousand, eight hundred more trees were accepted by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. In 1981 the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturalists came to take cuttings from our trees to replace Yoshino cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood. With this return gift, the trees again fulfilled their roles as a symbol and agent of friendship. The most recent event in this cycle occurred in the fall of 1999. It involved the formal planting in the Tidal Basin of a new generation of cuttings from a famous Japanese cherry tree in Gifu province reputed to be over 1500 years old.
In 1994 the Festival was expanded to two weeks to accommodate the many activities that happen during the trees blooming. Today the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., and over a million people visit Washington each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in the Festival that heralds the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital.
~ by John on April 10, 2008.