As the name indicates, Sakura Park ("Cherry Blossom Park"),
located in Manhattan's Upper West Side at 122nd Street and
Riverside Drive, is a historic site, with close ties to Japan.
In 1909, the Hudson Fulton Celebration was held
to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton, the
inventor of the steamboat, as well as the 300th anniversary
of English explorer Henry Hudson's discovery of the Hudson
River. At the time, various events were held throughout New
York State to mark these anniversaries.
As part of these celebrations, the Committee
of Japanese Residents of New York arranged to donate 2000
cherry trees to what was then known as Claremont Park. Unfortunately
the steamship that carried the original delivery of trees
from Japan was lost en route to the U.S. Finally in 1912,
three years after originally scheduled, the trees arrived
and were planted in the park. The park was renamed Sakura
Later, the City of New York purchased Sakura
Park from John D. Rockefeller who owned the land. It was redesigned
and reopened to the public in 1934. This was in part made
possible by contributions from the Rockefeller family.
In 1960, to celebrate the sister city ties between
Tokyo and New York, Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess
Michiko (now Emperor and Empress of Japan) attended an official
ceremony, during which a toro, a traditional stone lantern,
was donated. The toro was provided by the City of Tokyo and
was placed in the northeastern corner of the park. The Prince
and Princess again paid a visit to the park during their sojourn
in the United States in 1987.
In 1981, Sakura Park underwent renovations when
new cherry trees were planted, and a pavilion, used as a performance
space for the Manhattan School of Music, was constructed.
Hideo Nomoto, the Consul General of Japan in New York attended
a ribbon-cutting ceremony held in 1986. In his remarks he
stated, "The people of Japan as well as New Yorkers can
once again enjoy cherry trees in Sakura Park, a tranquil island
located on Manhattan, an island that never rests."
Not far from the park is Grant's Tomb,
which memorializes General Ulysses S. Grant, the civil war
general and U.S. president. After leaving office, President
Grant became the first U.S. President to travel to Japan when
he met with the Emperor Meiji in 1872.