The cherry blossoms that signal the start of Spring are expected to bloom this weekend, allowing visitors and local residents the chance to enjoy the beauty of the trees with some weekend events.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival will hold a parade on Saturday from 10 a.m. along 7th to 17th Streets NW. Also on Saturday, the 55th annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival will take place. The event is said to be the U.S.’s largest one-day celebration of all things Japanese. The festival will open at 10:30 a.m., and will be held between 9th and 14th Streets along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Cherry Blossom lantern lighting ceremony was held last Sunday at the Tidal Basin. Despite the absence of the flowers, called sakura in Japanese, from the cherry trees, friendship between the United States and Japan was in full bloom.
“I think we have developed all this friendship after the end of the war, 70 years [later], we are [among]the strongest friends and allies in the world, so I’m sure that will continue,” said Kenichiro Sasae, Japanese ambassador to the United States.
Cherry blossoms came in Washington in 1912, when the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave 3,000 cherry trees to the city.
The Rev. Junichi Saigo of the Washington International Japanese Church spoke to the audience last weekend: “The relationship between the U.S. and Japan is not just some kind of diplomatic one, based on mutual economic or strategic benefits between them. May the lighting of the stone lantern symbolize for such a mutual, caring, loving relationship between the U.S. and Japan forever.”
The Japanese presented the stone lantern to the U.S. more than 60 years ago to honor the opening of markets between the two nations.
Rainey Sewell, 2014 U.S. Cherry Blossom Princess, said the flame from the lantern “symbolizes how we’re going to be there for each other, no matter what. And I think that’s special.”
The final Cherry Blossom Festival event is scheduled for this Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the 11th Street Bridge. The Anacostia River Festival, hosted by the National Park Service, will be the first of its kind to celebrate the ecology of the river.