D.C.’s cherry blossom tree tradition turns 100, events planned

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 5, 2012 

WASHINGTON — Washington, D.C.’s 100-year-old tradition of arboreal glory will hit peak bloom between March 24 and March 31.

That’s the date the National Park Service has given for the annual cherry blossom display to be at its height.

This is a centennial year for the trees. The first set arrived in 1910 but had to be destroyed because of pests. The second set, 3,020 trees of various varieties, are planted around the White House and the Tidal Basin.

On March 27, 1912, two Yoshino trees were planted in a small ceremony by first lady Helen Taft and the Japanese Ambassador’s wife, Viscountess Chinda. According to the Park Service, these original trees still stand.

For the centennial year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has produced a special poster by renowned artist Peter Max, a silver blossom necklace, black long-sleeved tee shirts decorated with the five different sorts of blossoms, and “Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.” Both Japan and the U.S. have created commemorative postal stamps.

Events include the National Cherry Blossom Parade on April 14.

The opening ceremonies of the festival are March 25, but it runs five weeks, from March 20 to April 27, National Arbor Day.

Among the events being planned in Washington celebrating the “sakura,” or cherry blossom, are:

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, one of the two Smithsonian museums of Asian art, has a rare exhibit of the complete set of “Hokusai: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” wood block prints. The 46 prints — 10 were added to the initial set — has been borrowed from seven museums and two private collections. It opens March 24 and ends June 17.The National Gallery of Art will have “Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings” by Ito Jakuchu. For the first time all 30 scrolls will be on exhibit for only a month, March 30 to April 29. They are being lent by the Japanese Imperial Household.

There are two exhibits at the National Geographic Society. One is the Japanese “Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” and the other focuses on Eliza R. Scidmore, who helped raise money to buy the trees and have them brought to America.

The Japanese Information Society has “Serenity in Silk,” a display of 30 works of Japanese embroidery including cherry blossoms.

The Library of Congress has “Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship.” The show exhibits photographs, wood block prints and even political cartoons from their collections.

The “Blossom Kite Festival” will be held on the National Mall on March 31.

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