It has been a few years since I strolled through the Fall leaves and sites of Japan. The Japanese maples were at their most brilliant colors. It has been my hope to return someday and see the glorious Spring in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. I may have to wait and see them in Washington, D.C. These cherry trees were given in 1910 as a gift from Japan to the United States, in happier times before World War II.
History of the Cherry Trees in Washington you may not know:
- In 1885, Eliza Scidmore returned from her first trip to Japan and approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds with the idea of planting cherry trees along the reclaimed waterfront of the Potomac River.
- Mrs Scidmore, who was the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, was rebuffed, though she would continue proposing the idea to every Superintendent for the next 24 years!.
- Through persistence and some help from Mrs. Taft, the First Lady at the time, in 1909 the Embassy of Japan informed the U.S. Dept of State, the city of Tokyo intended to donate 2000 cherry trees to the United States to be planted along the Potomac.
- The first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910.
- Japanese chemist, Takamine, who discovered adrenaline, was in Washington with Mr. Midzuno, the Japanese consul to New York. Takamine asked if Mrs. Taft would accept an additional, healthy 2000 trees and she did. The first trees were planted.
The Japanese Lantern is a stone statue in West Potomac Park. It is lighted during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. A pair of lanterns were created in 1651, to mark the death of Tokugawa Iemitsu, who was the third shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty. The lantern was formerly located at the Tosho-gu temple, in Ureno Park, where its twin remains today. The lantern was given, by the governor of Tokyo, to the people of the United States, and was dedicated on March 30, 1954. (Click here to see a panoramic view of the Tosho-gu temple in Ureno Park, Japan)
History of Washington cherry trees continued:
- The first “Cherry Blossom Festival” was held in late 1934 under joint sponsorship by numerous civic groups, becoming an annual event. The cherry trees had by this point become an established part of the nation’s capital.
- In 1938, plans to cut down the cherry trees to clear ground for the Jefferson Memorial prompted a group of women to chain themselves together at the site in protest. “This is the worst desecration of beauty in the capital since the burning of the White House by the British,” a woman chained to a tree proclaimed. Roosevelt, who was President at the time, remained unmoved by the protests. If the activists didn’t remove themselves, he said, “…the cherry trees, the women and their chains would be gently but firmly transplanted in some other part of Potomac Park.” The women finally left and the particular trees were taken out in the middle of the night to be transplanted in another place.
- A compromise was reached where more trees would be planted along the south side of the Basin to frame the Memorial. These women would be happy to know that there are today 2,750 cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
- However, World War II brought some problems. On December 11, 1941, four trees were cut down. It is suspected that this was retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan four days earlier.
- In hopes of dissuading people from further attacks upon the trees during the war, they were referred to as “Oriental” flowering cherry trees for the war’s duration.
- Suspended during World War II, the festival resumed in 1947 with the support of the Washington, D.C., Board of Trade and the D.C. Commissioners and has been an annual event since then. (credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival, Wikipedia and Stacy Conradt)
Japanese Cherry Trees in Japan:
For my reader’s pleasure, the music you are about to hear has been composed by Peter Helland of Norway. His purpose was to help the listener to slow down, relax, and enjoy the peacefulness of his music. Thank you, Peter, for we all need a rest in our often trying world. We also thank you for including the beautiful cherry trees in your video. (It would be my suggestion to use this music, in its entirety, as background music for rest or something you can do while relaxing. Enjoy!)
Music and pictures for “slowing down” and relaxation
Video (Turn up sound)