Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012
March 27, 1912, on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., first lady Helen Herron Taft—wife of President William Taft—and Viscountess Chinda—wife of the Japanese ambassador—plant the first two of 3,020 Yoshina cherry trees. The cherry trees are given to the United States government as a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. In 1910, the first batch of cherry trees arrived in Washington from Japan. However, the initial trees are diseased and could not be planted. Despite the setback, two years later, thousands of healthy new trees are planted in the U.S. capital where they remain for the next 100 years. In 1915, the United States reciprocates the friendly gesture by sending flowering dogwood trees to Japan. Following World War II, the United States sends some of the Washington cherry trees back to Tokyo in an effort to replace the trees that were destroyed by American bombing attacks during the war.
Today, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., marks the “centennial celebration of the gift of trees” from Japan. This year, a five-week celebration highlights the spring blossoming of the cherry trees with a variety of exhibits and cultural events. Annually, the cherry blossom celebration in D.C. attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. The festival runs March 20–April 27, with the hallmark parade scheduled for April 14.