U.S. eyes 3,000 dogwoods for ‘sakura’ anniversary

Kyodo

As Japan and the U.S. prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the presentation of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington by Tokyo as a gift in 1912, the U.S. government is drawing up a plan to present Japan with 3,000 dogwood seedlings this spring as a new symbol of friendship, sources involved in Japan-U.S. relations said Monday.

Washington is also hoping to express through the flowering dogwood, a species native to North America, its continued support for Japan’s recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The goodwill gesture also comes at a time when ties are strained by such issues as the long- stalled plan for relocating a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture.

It is considering presenting the dogwoods when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visits the United States, if his postponed official trip can be carried out in the spring, the sources said.

The dogwood is the state flower of Virginia. They are small and consist of four showy petallike bracts, usually snow white or pink. The dogwood flower symbolizes durability, while in Japan it symbolizes the reciprocal giving of a present.

The gift of cherry trees in 1912 was sent by Tokyo’s then mayor, Yukio Ozaki, in response to a request from then U.S. first lady Helen Taft, who subsequently helped plant the first two on the banks of the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. In 1915, the United States reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood to Japan.

The growing number of “sakura” trees planted along the Potomac River has since become a symbol of friendship between the two countries, drawing more than a million visitors each spring to see the cherry blossoms. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival will run from March 20 through April 27 this year.