IT'S CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME IN DC
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) One hundred and four years ago today, March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States, planted two Japanese cherry trees on the North bank of the Potomac River.
The trees can be seen today several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial at the terminus of 17th Street SW, 125 feet South of what is now Independence Avenue, SW. A commemorative plaque marks the event.
Following the planting of the first two Japanese cherry trees, more plantings continued between 1913 and 1920.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which began in 1935, commemorates the gift of 3000 cherry trees from Tokyo mayor Yuko Ozaki to honor the friendship between Japan and the United States.
In recent years, most First Ladies have served as Honorary Chair of the festival. The kickoff of this year's festivities began yesterday and include four weekends through April 17th.
On April 2nd, the 50th anniversary celebration of Kite-flying will take place on the National Mall and on April 16th the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival sponsored by Harris Teeter will begin at 8:30 p.m.
The fireworks are to be preceded by the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and "Sakura Matsuir," a celebration of Japanese sights, sounds and tastes held at the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square.
The Japanese Cherry Tree, known as "Sakura" in the Japanese language, is described as an exalted flowering plant, the blossoms of which are...
"a potent symbol equated with evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages."
During World War II, cherry blossoms provided inspiration for the Japanese people and were painted on the sides of suicide bombers for kamikaze missions. In the United States, the Cherry Blossom Festival was suspended during the war and not reinstated until 1947.
"Cherry Blossom Festival: Cherry Tree History," National Park Service, www.nps.gov/
"History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival," www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/
Cherry Blossoms at the Jefferson Memorial