Japan is gifting Washington with 250 new cherry trees

Cherry trees bloom next to Jefferson Memorial in DC

In Japan, the giving of gifts between friends isn’t just a token of appreciation; it’s a solemn ceremony. So you know that when they do it on a national scale, the results are going to be impressive. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Japan announced that his country would be giving the United States 250 cherry trees to replace the iconic ones due to be uprooted in Washington.

The gesture has significance beyond the inherent beauty of the trees themselves, which are sublime. Other than Japan, one of the best places to see cherry trees in bloom is Washington D.C. Over 1 million visitors a year come to see them in the springtime, according the Associated Press. They grow on the grounds of the Washington Monument and around East and West Potomac Park because in 1912, Japan gave the United States an initial gift of 3,020 cherry tree seeds. Two of them were planted on the banks of the Potomac by first lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (the wife of the Japanese ambassador), and that site is now a gathering point for the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.

MORE: Turns out, D.C. is not the cherry blossom capital of the U.S.

Jefferson Memorial surrounded by cherry blossoms
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Unfortunately, these cherry trees are in jeopardy. The Tidal Basin is a man-made reservoir that runs alongside the Jefferson Memorial, and it has been prone to flooding in recent years due in part to deterioration of its seawall. Construction is needed to repair it, but many of the cherry trees will need to be uprooted.

This fact did not escape the attention of Japanese officials, who are now doing their part to preserve that natural beauty. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the gesture as President Joe Biden welcomed him to an official state visit at the White House.

“As a gesture of friendship, Japan will provide 250 cherry that will be planted in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of your independence,” said Kishida, drawing applause from a crowd of U.S. lawmakers. The United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of its signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.

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About the Author
Tod Caviness
Tod covered everything from nightlife to Orlando's literary scene (yes, it has one) during his 11 years with the Orlando Sentinel. These days, he's a freelance journalist and recovering poet who lives in Central Florida with his lovely wife, two brilliant kids and one underachieving dog. Visit Scripps News to see more of Tod's work.

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