A nonprofit organization is planning to plant 1,000 flowering cherry-tree seedlings in Beijing this summer as part of cultural exchanges and a gesture of bilateral friendship.

The Japan Association for Cultural Exchange (ACE Japan) said it will also hold a concert in Hailar in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on July 26 that will feature Japanese and Chinese performers.

Toyoko Nakazato, an opera singer who has spent the past decade doing voice training in Inner Mongolia and other parts of China, will act as a “Green Ambassador” and the main performer.

“Originally, we wanted to bring the 1,000 cherry seedlings to Inner Mongolia, but because the winter there is too severe, we have decided to plant them in Beijing instead,” said Harumi Nakajima, ACE Japan executive managing director.

The group hopes to plant seedlings from Yamagata Prefecture in Beijing’s Zhaoyang Park or at the National Music Institute just outside the capital. Nakazato will begin giving voice training there in September, Nakajima said.

Further details have yet to be decided with the Chinese government, but the group is hoping to schedule a planting ceremony for June 6 to coincide with the U.N. World Environment Day.

In addition to Nakazato, the concert, to be held on a plain in Hailar, will feature a Japanese drum show, shamisen performance and Yamagata’s “hanagasa ondo” dancing, as well as Inner Mongolian singing and dancing.

A similar planting was held in Cairo by the Japan-Egypt Association in spring 2001.

“The trees are now about 170 cm tall and we are expecting blossoms next year,” said Nobuo Oshikiri, an adviser for the association.

Oshikiri said negotiations with New York City are under way to plant nearly 4,000 cherry seedlings in Memorial Park next year.

“Sakura” flowering cherries are loved for their blossoms, whose color and form are considered symbolic of Japan’s traditional values of purity and simplicity.

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