Sakura Park

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 Park.

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.