By: Kristen Thomas
Photos: Sarah Darnall
Kentucky World Trade Center
Each year the Japanese eagerly
await the return of the sakura (cherry blossoms) that mark the return of spring
after months of winter gloom. As the delicate pink flowers emerge, so do the
people, drawn out of their homes and offices for hanami (“flower viewing”)undefinedenjoying
the warming weather, good sake, the company of friends, and, of course, the
stunning views of sakura fluttering in the breeze. Hanami is a quintessentially Japanese
tradition, though one need not be in Japan to experience it.
United States offers its own opportunities for hanami, with the most famous being
the National Cherry Blossom Festival held annually in late March and early
April in Washington, D.C. Over one
million visitors annually attend the two-week festival, which takes place this
year from March 27 to April 11. The
festival was made possible by a 1912 gift of some 3,000 cherry trees from the
mayor of Tōkyō to the people of Washington,
D.C. to honor the friendship of the U.S. and Japan. In return, the United States Government sent
a gift of dogwood trees to Japan
in 1915. Since 1935, an official
festival has been held commemorating the two countries’ relationship. Today there are about 3,750 cherry trees of
16 varieties beautifying the Tidal Basin area near the Washington Monument
and Jefferson Memorial.
the cherry trees are certainly the stars of the National Cherry Blossom
Festival, also featured are more than 150 cultural offerings for the whole
family each day. Concerts, street
vendors, fireworks, a parade, art shows, a 10-mile run, and the Sakura Matsuri
Japanese cultural celebration are just some of the festival’s main
attractions. Performances of traditional
Japanese arts such as taiko drumming add to the festive atmosphere. Admission to most events is free.
more information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival and to plan your
visit to Washington, D.C.
version of hanami next spring, visit the official website at www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.