The diverse variety of tree species that populate the earth easily number in the millions. Trees are an ever-growing biological kingdom that features creatures of an unimaginable array of color and elegance. However, despite the multitude of stunning species the plant kingdom manages to produce, almost none are able to match the international popularity and pure loveliness of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Tree. The mesmerizing image of “cherry blossom clouds” blooming en masse evokes almost instantaneous feelings of warmth, relaxation and a sense of sanctuary that is as intricately entwined with the Land of the Rising Sun as symbolically possible. Cherry Blossoms are a type of de facto visual representation of Japanese culture, and are inherently representative of the peacefulness and striking beauty of Japan’s ancient heritage. Therefore, when the Kingdom of Japan and the United States of America sought to reaffirm and strengthen a bond that history has proven can withstand even the cruelest of trials and tribulations, no gift seemed more appropriate to give the Western nation than that of Japan’s most renowned tree.
In early 1912, the mayor of Tokyo City, in representation of the entire Japanese government, gifted the city of Washington, D.C. with 3,020 Cherry Blossoms whose lineage hailed from a famous grove along Tokyo’s Arakawa River. On March 27, 1912, the First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of Japan’s ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, planted the first two trees along the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. These two powerful trees, marked by a commemorative plaque, still stand just as strong and startlingly beautiful as the day they were planted.
Ever since this wondrous inception of stunning beauty and undying friendship between two very different countries was established, the city of D.C. has hosted an annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, where citizens from across the country and even beyond come to gaze and awe at one of the most beautiful wonders of nature to grace the eastern coast of the Americas. The two-week festival begins on the last Saturday of March with an official opening ceremony, and in the upcoming fortnight a wide variety of cultural events and festivals take place that include, but are not limited to: photography exhibits, kimono fashion shows, rakugo, martial arts, a marathon, singing, dancing, and even a rugby tournament, despite that fact that it has no real significance in America or Japan. It is an experience unlike any other, and 2013’s festival is charged to be just as fantastical as its legacy would demand. Whether the festival will have fair or frozen weather during this year’s festival is anyone’s call, as the traditional groundhogs Winnipeg Willow and Manitoba Merv gave conflicting reactions earlier this year. Whether spring will come early or winter will remain is something we will just have to wait and see, but one thing we can all guarantee is that the Cherry Blossom Festival will move full steam ahead with more revelry than we can possibly imagine. So, for the next two whole weeks, the city of D.C. will be abuzz with life, fever and a marvelous blending of two distinct cultures into a pageantry of life, loveliness and splendor.