Tue, Mar 20, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Cherry blossoms a diplomatic coup for Japan

AFP, Washington

Two years later, Japan sent a new shipment of 3,020 trees, which were successfully planted in a ceremony led by the then-first lady Helen Herron Taft.

A new setback came when Japan and the US went to war. In 1941, four trees were chopped down in suspected vandalism after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but Americans informally organized to protect the trees, which were referred to generically as “Oriental” trees until the end of World War II.

The cherry blossom festival has rapidly expanded in popularity since then. In 1965, Japan donated another 3,800 trees, which are known in Japanese as sakura.

Ann McClellan, author of the book The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration, said that visitors to Washington usually recalled the Japanese influence, but that the trees also carried an “overarching message.”

“When I’m down by the Tidal Basin and I’m overhearing people’s conversations as they walk under the blooms, it’s often about how brief life is and how beautiful, and how you have to make the most of it,” McClellan said.

“That is certainly what the Japanese believe, but now we’ve all embraced it,” she said.

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