Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, “flower” in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms, which is sometimes called sakura after the Japanese. From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan. It is one of the most beautiful and magical experiences we can enjoy in this country but also elsewhere in the world.
In the United States, hanami has also become very popular. In 1912, Japan gave 3,000 sakura trees as a gift to the United States to celebrate the nations’ friendship. These trees were planted in the shore of the Tidal Basinin Washington D.C. and another 3,800 gifted trees were also taken there in 1965. These sakura trees continue to be a popular tourist attraction, and every year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place when they bloom in early spring. In 2012 it will be celebrated from March 20 to April 27.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the site of the peace conference that produced the Treaty of Portsmouth, for which the original Washington, DC cherry trees were given in thanks. Several cherry trees planted on the bank of the tidal pond next to Portsmouth City Hall were the gift of Portsmouth’s Japanese sister city of Nichinan.
In Macon, Georgia, another cherry blossom festival called the International Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated every spring. This year, the festival takes places from March 16 to 25. Macon is known as the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World, because 300,000 sakura trees grow there.
Philadelphia is also home to over 2000 flowering Japanese cherry trees, half of which were a gift from the Japanese government in 1926 in honor of the 150th anniversary of American independence, with the other half planted by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia between 1998 and 2007. Philadelphia’s cherry blossoms are located within Fairmount Park, and the annual Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the blooming trees from march 23 to april 21. The University of Washington in Seattle also has cherry blossoms in its quad.
Also, Balboa Park of San Diego has 2,000 cherry blossom trees that blossom in mid to late March. In Los Angeles, over 2,000 trees are located at Lake Balboa in Van Nuys. These trees were donated by an anonymous Japanese benefactor and were planted in 1992.
Do you know other Cherry Blossom Festivals in the United States?