DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival marks 110-year old gift from Japan

As thousands visit and enjoy the District’s Cherry Blossom Festival, it is also marking the 110th anniversary of Japan’s gift to the United States that started the tradition.

The famed cherry blossom trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. Back then, Japan called them a “memorial of friendship” between the two countries.

Now, more than 110 years later, Japan’s Embassy Spokesman Ryo Kuroishi says the friendship between the two countries remains strong.

“I’m sure it will last another 110 years.” Kuroishi said. “We are excited to celebrate the anniversary.”

The annual Cherry blossoms, or sakura as they’re called in Japan, kick off many celebrations in that country, as well.

The Japanese mark the arrival of spring and the blossoms with special gatherings called hanami near the cherry trees. The tradition is at least one thousand years old.

“We can see cherry blossom trees in many places all around the world. But, that of D.C. is quite unique. It is very similar to that of Japan,” Kuroishi said. “Here in D.C., people are enjoying cherry blossom trees like we do in Japan.”

In 1912, Japan gave more than 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to the U.S., which have a life span of between 50 and 60 years. But, with the expert help arborists over the years, the District’s renowned trees have doubled that life expectancy.

“I want to thank the people of the U.S. who have taken care of these cherry trees so carefully,” Kuroishi said. “That’s why they’ve lasted for 110 years.”

For the last two years, D.C.’s official Cherry Blossom Festival was forced to go online due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the popular outdoor festival was reopened to the public.

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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