National

Japanese, American musicians jazz up Washington cherry blossom festival

Kyodo

Japanese and American musicians including New York-based jazz pianist Manami Morita were among those who entertained visitors to Washington’s annual cherry blossom festival on Saturday.

Also appearing at a sold-out event at the Warner Theatre were Japanese pop singer Misato Watanabe and the AUN J Classic Orchestra group, giving a modern performance of traditional Japanese instruments. Deborah Bond, a Washington-based soul singer, also performed.

The sakura matsuri (cherry blossom festival), which runs through April 12 along with other events including art shows and a parade, commemorates the 1912 gift of the cherry trees Tokyo gave Washington to strengthen bilateral ties.

The beginning of the festival on Friday was disrupted by snow in the U.S. capital. The 3,700 cherry trees planted near the Potomac are likely to be in full bloom from April 11 to 14, according to the U.S. National Park Service.

“I am superhappy to be part of this wonderful cherry blossom festival,” Watanabe said in English, adding she hopes future festivals will be able to mark the “110th, 120th, 130th and 200th” anniversaries of the gift.

Watanabe sang the traditional Japanese songs “Sakura sakura” (“Cherry Blossoms”) and “Furusato” (“Hometown”), along with her 1986 signature number, “My Revolution,” with musicians including veteran Japanese singer-songwriter Senri Oe on the piano.

The festival is organized by U.S. National Cherry Blossom Festival Inc. with the backing of the Japanese Embassy and other entities.