Washington’s famous cherry trees are blooming again.
This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington honors the 105th anniversary of Japan’s gift of the flowering trees to the United States.
It took coordination and the work of many to ensure the cherry trees’ survival a century ago. A first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910. But two years later Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki presented the city with 3,000 healthy cherry trees. First lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador at the time, planted the first two trees in a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, at the Tidal Basin.
This year’s bloom has been nerve-wracking for tourism officials — cold weather killed half of the blossoms on the trees just as they were reaching their peak on March 25.
By popular request, here's Ambassador Sasae's haiku from this year's @CherryBlossFest Opening Ceremony! pic.twitter.com/Y1WO5Z8W2Z
— Japan Embassy DC (@JapanEmbDC) March 26, 2017
Still, there are plenty of blooms to delight the more than 1.5 million people from around the world who are expected to participate in the four-week festival that ends April 16. The citywide celebration includes a fireworks display, a parade, a kite-flying festival and more than 100 free cultural performances.