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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Cherry Blossom Welcome for AAHAM Legislative Day 2019!


With AAHAM’s Legislative Day just around the corner, April 15-16 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, you may be able to see some of the famed cherry trees still in bloom.  In case you want to arrive early for Legislative Day, there’s a lot of excitement around the cherry blossom trees including a huge festival and parade on Saturday, April 13.

This popular festival commemorates the gift of approximately 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the United States in 1912, a gift celebrating the friendship between the Japanese and American people.

First Lady Helen Herron Taft accepted the trees from Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador in a ceremony on March 27, 1912.  The first two trees were planted on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.  During the ceremony, the First Lady presented Viscountess Chinda a bouquet of American Beauty roses.  There’s a large plaque where the two trees still stand commemorating the event.  The United States responded with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.  From 1913 to 1920, more trees were planted around the Tidal Basin while others were planted in East Potomac Park.  The majority of the trees are of the Yoshino variety but another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees. 

Tragically, on December 11, 1941, four trees were cut down.  It was suspected this was retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor but it was never confirmed.  Just to be politically correct throughout the war, the name of the flowering cherry trees was changed to “Oriental.”

In 1965, 3,800 more Yoshino trees were given to our county by the Japanese and accepted by First Lady Bird Johnson.  The first Lady and Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of the Japanese ambassador, reenacted the original 1912 ceremony. Many trees were planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument. 

In 1982, illustrating the friendship and cooperation between the two countries,  Japanese horticulturalists took cuttings from the Washington D.C. Yoshino trees to replace cherry trees that had been destroyed in a flood in Japan.   

I look forward to seeing you at Legislative Day, Washington is always exciting and this year should be no exception!

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