For a few weeks in spring, the prominent colors of Washington, D.C., change from red, white, and blue, to a pale pink, as over 3,000 Japanese cherry trees (sakura) bloom along the Tidal Basin near the National Mall. The trees were a gift from the City of Tokyo in 1912 and in the 99 years since have become a symbol of not only the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan, but America’s capital as well.
While Washington’s cherry blossoms might be the most well known, it is not the only city in the country that is home a large number of Japanese sakura. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for instance, received a gift of cherry trees from Japan in 1926 in honor of the 150th anniversary of American Independence. A map created by the Embassy of Japan shows the communities from coast to coast that share this special relationship with Japan:
In Japan, where sakura are a national symbol, communities hold springtime festivals celebrating the arrival of the blossoms, and families, friends, and co-workers gather for o-hanami –(literally “flower-viewing”) picnics under the trees. The tradition has caught on in the United States as well. More than a million people travel to Washington, D.C., each year to enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival; a two-week celebration that features concerts, a parade, and the largest Japanese matsuri, or street festival, outside of Japan.
However, Washington has competition from Macon, Georgia, which has been named the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” and holds its own annual pink-themed festival in celebration of the city’s 300,000 yoshino cherry trees. American cities across the country including Newark, New Jersey; Seattle, Washington; and San Francisco, California hold large cherry blossom festivals every spring that showcase Japanese culture and celebrate the unique connection their communities share with Japan through the flowering trees.