This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ceremonial planting of the Japanese flowering cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. My family was fortunate to take in the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms this past weekend thanks to spring arriving a little early. In addition to their beauty, we learned that the trees are also a historical and diplomatic landmark.
In 1912 the Mayor of Tokyo gave 3,020 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC as a gift to honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. The first “festival” occurred in 1927 when a group of school children reenacted the initial planting.
The Cherry Blossom Festival has grown since then, and this year it is March 24th through April 15th. There are ranger-led programs like “Cherry Talks” and “Lantern Walks” scheduled to celebrate the 100th anniversary. Bike Tours on the weekends and 3.5 mile Cherry Chit-Chat Run on Saturdays go through the National Park Service. Kids can also join in on the fun at the Blooming Jr. Ranger Tent at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial by earning Jr. Ranger Badges with hands-on activities between 10:30 am and 4 pm on the weekends.
Families might also enjoy viewing the “Sea of Cherries” while enjoying a picnic lunch or from the water on a paddle boat. It is recommended to reserve a paddle boat in advance on-line through Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. A two passenger boat is $12 an hour, and a four passenger boat is $19 hour.
Two other events not to be missed is the Blossom Kite Festival on March 31st and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 14th. For more information about other events check out the official site of the National Cherry Blossom Festival or download the 2012 Festival app to your phone.
According to the people of Japan, the cherry blossom trees, also known as Sakura, bear a deep, important symbolism that has drawn people together for generations. This past weekend these magnificent trees brought three generations of my family together. I hope your family will also be able to enjoy the same experience over the next two weeks by celebrating 100 years of the gift of trees.