Don’t let this cold autumn weather get you down! Before we fall back in a couple weeks, let’s spring forward and visualize that happier time of year for a bit. What do you see when you think of spring? Even with the endless types of flowering plants, one of my favorites (and one I look forward to every year) is the cherry blossom tree or sakura. Many associate the cherry blossom to Japanese culture but did you know that many of the cherry blossom trees planted around the Pacific Northwest are actually from Japan?
In 1976, the Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki sent 1,000 cherry trees to Seattle to commemorate the US Bicentennial (the Bicentennial included a series of celebrations and observances paying tribute to the historical events that led up to the creation of the US as an independent nation during the mid-1970s). Fun fact: the Prime Minister also had special connection to the Northwest and Japantown – he attended the University of Washington and washed dishes at Maneki in the 1930’s.
So where can you find these cherry blossom trees?
One place they were planted was at the Seattle Center. Along with a stone monument and lanterns donated by various Japanese cultural organizations, this initiated the first Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival that is now held at the Seattle Center every April. Beginning as a small program and exhibit of Japanese art as a way to celebrate Japanese culture and America’s relationship with Japan, the Festival is the first and oldest ethnic festival to be held at Seattle Center in the Seattle Center Festál series. Approaching its 38th year, it is the largest public event demonstrating the breadth and depth of traditional and contemporary Japanese art and culture in the NW and British Columbia. With over 90 displays every year and over 30,000 attendees, we’re excited and thankful to the Festival Committee to let the photo contest be a part of the Festival next April!
And in the ID, you can find these cherry trees in Kobe Terrace Park. As the deadline for the photo contest quickly approach, hum the tunes of “Sakura Sakura” (a traditional Japanese folk song about spring, the season of cherry blossoms) and make your way up to the Kobe Terrace Park. Imagine yourself as if you are there in the spring time as you see the beautiful blooming Mt. Fuji cherry trees along with the four-ton, 200 year-old stone lantern on the hillside (given as gifts from the people of Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan) and capture the beauty of the cherry trees in the autumn breeze!
We will exhibit the winning photos at the 38th Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival this next year, so submit your best images of Nihonmachi and have a “hanami” (a flower viewing) in front of the cherry blossom trees around the Fisher Pavilion in April!
Other locations of the cherry trees from Japan include Seward Park, Washington Arboretum, and the Quad at UW.