U.S.-Japan Friendship Continues To Blossom

Posted by Susan Stevenson
March 23, 2013
Cherry Blossoms in Japan

An enduring legacy can start with a single idea.

Each year in Washington D.C., the arrival of spring is celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Did you know that the festival marks a gift of trees from the people of Japan? The blooms signify not only the changing season, but also the long-lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. On March 23, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington celebrates Japanese Culture Day, and we honor this special bilateral relationship.

Over one hundred years ago, Japan sent the United States a gift of 3,000 cherry trees. The first tree was planted along Washington, D.C.'s tidal basin, joined by hundreds of others to bloom into an annual rite of spring. Last year, the United States marked the anniversary by beginning a reciprocal gift of 3,000 American dogwood trees to Japan. What seemed a far-fetched idea soon flowered into reality with the help of corporate sponsors and the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation.

On a fine October afternoon last year, I sat with my colleagues in the National Arboretum's Bonsai Pavilion, where we listened to then-Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Zumwalt discuss the close ties between our two countries. We were gathered to send the first dogwoods to Japan, where they will be planted throughout the country, including in the Tohoku region affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. A representative from the arboretum told us about the selection of the dogwoods and how the trees were a metaphor for Japan's resilience and regeneration in the aftermath of the disaster. The blossoms also signify our continued positive alliance with Japan, as the United States government rebalances its engagement towards Asia.

Following the remarks at the arboretum, the assembled crowd waved off the first UPS truck laden with dogwood saplings on the first leg of their journey to Japan. Weeks later, on another bright autumn day, November 16, 2012, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara D. Sonenshine presented the dogwoods to the people of Japan in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. She noted the warmth that the pink and red blossoms would one day bring to the people of Japan. Along with Acting Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, Under Secretary Sonenshine dedicated the American gift of 3,000 dogwoods, saying, “Future generations will enjoy the shade of these trees for as long as we can foresee. They symbolize a friendship that is already strong and enduring. We see that every day, in the flow of people between our countries, whether they are students coming to study at our universities, or the 3.2 million Japanese tourists who visited the United States last year.”

President Obama has spoken frequently about the rebalance of our foreign policy towards Asia. As part of this rebalance, it is important for the United States to strengthen existing alliances in the region, not only through shared political and economic policy, but also through social and cultural exchanges. At the start of the 20th century, the Japanese gave America 3,000 cherry trees as a symbol of our friendship. Through our gift of 3,000 dogwood trees to the people of Japan, we reaffirm that friendship into the 21st century.



Maryann H.
California, USA
March 25, 2013

Maryann H. in California writes:

Cherry Blossom time in the nation's capital is one of my absolute favorite times to be there! The city looks and smells so great then. Unfortunately won't make it this year but maybe next. Thanks to Japan for sharing those 3,000 cherry trees!

March 26, 2013

i am South Korea's Samsung Card to seven million won in debt(korea won). After working for Samsung, Samsung and Apple's first lawsuit - Steve Jobs - from handsome debt. Samsung, after the death of Steve Jobs, i expected i would be difficult to pay off a debt, month delayed payment request, but will repay the debt collectors have.

Failed to keep its promise to Samsung angry, i did not repay the debt. In fact, the three million won, was now seven million won Prof. To give up my conclusions, to pay off the debt, try to talk to the media about the death of Steve Jobs,. Will be too upset, Action me by Samsung.
How to solve it?

i think
MB kill my father and my mother disable
, made me a looser. Also, want kill him and his family.

Fred L.
April 3, 2013

Fred L. in India writes:

I am impressed with this post here. Good Luck.

Lois S.
Ohio, USA
April 3, 2013

Lois S. in Ohio writes:

What a wonderful gesture between both countries! May those trees last forever as evidence of friendship!

R. T.
April 5, 2013

R. Taketomi in Japan writes:

I knew that the cherry trees were sent from Japan to commemorate the amicable bilateral relations to the U.S., but I didn't know there was a festival called, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, which celebrates Japanese Culture Day. I think the cherry trees not only signal the coming of spring in Washington, but also remind people of peace and the image of faraway home.

Ashim C.
May 24, 2013

This contribution by sstevenson is such an impressive reading. US Japan relationship, one's hunch is, is ideal and most substantive. Japanese are people with great civilisational pride. A vanquished power of 2nd world war, it came under American sphere of influences under post war arrangements, which must have hurt Japanese sentiments then but then Japanese talent worked and they not only reconciled themselves to their fate but changed their hurt into cooperation and mutual friendship and prospered as a democratic nation. Cherry festival indeed symbolises that. This must have shaped the attitude of many other island states in East Asia and Pacific region including possibly China at higher level of it's leadership, which eventually integrated themselves with US comprehensively and prospered but this relationship is not talked about as much as it should be. One would recommend joint US-Japan road shows in South Asia as US has decided to scale up it's engagements in Asia Pacific region - a move which has been widely welcomed by people. Extending this engagement to South Asia is a logical next step.


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