The cherry blossom, or sakura in Japanese, is one of the most popular symbols of Japan and one of Japan's national flowers. Sakura may also be Japan's greatest gift to the United States. In 1912, Japan gave the U.S. 3,020 cherry trees to celebrate the friendship shared by our two countries. Those sakura that came to NY were planted in what is now known as Sakura Park in 1912. Today, sakura trees are planted in parks across the country and have become a living symbol of Japan-U.S. friendship. 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of this gift of sakura to the U.S. from Japan. A variety of events commemorating the cherry blossoms and Japan-US friendship are planned for this historic occasion.
History of Sakura in New York
The cherry trees were to be presented as a gift from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909.
This 18-day celebration, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton's innovative demonstration of the steam-powered boat on the Hudson River and the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery and exploration of that river, took place throughout the state of New York. However, the steamer that carried the original delivery of cherry trees from Japan was lost at sea. A new shipment of trees arrived in New York City in 1912, and they were planted in Clairmont Park, now known as Sakura Park, on April 28th, 1912.
Where to enjoy Cherry blossom Festivals
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) will celebrate its 31st anniversary in 2012. The largest cherry blossom festival in the Tri-State Area, more than 60,000 visitors visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Sakura Matsuri each year.
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was founded in 1910. The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, designed by landscape architect Takeo Shiota, was completed in 1915. It is the first public Japanese garden in the United States. Since the first cherry trees were planted in 1921, BBG visitors can enjoy more than 220 Japanese flowering cherry trees of more than 30 different species and cultures, including "Kwanzan", "Okame", and others.
Japanese American Association
The Japanese American Association (JAA) of New York hosts a cherry blossom festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park every year. Donations of 168 cherry trees by JAA to New York City in April 2001 made this festival possible from its first year in 2003, and has been co-sponsored by the New York City Department of Park & Recreation. Next year will mark the 8th annual festival.
※Flushing Meadows Corona Park:
Branch Brook Park, NJ
Branch Brook Park in Essex County, NJ will celebrate its 36th annual Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012. This park has more than 4,000 cherry trees of 14 different species, of which 2,000 were donated by Caroline Bamberger Fuld in 1927. The Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by Essex County in partnership with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) New York Chapter.
City of White Plains
The White Plains Recreation and Parks Department and the Niji No Kai Japanese Education Center will join together to host the Cherry Blossom Festival at Ternure Park. There will be traditional Japanese music, dance, storytelling, games and crafts for people of all ages. This educational and entertaining event promotes Japanese culture and traditions while being surrounded by more than 30 gorgeous blooming trees.
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Sakura Matsuri / Cherry Blossom Festival - Mill River Park -
This year's Sakura Matsuri, or Cherry Blossom Festival, will be held on Saturday May 5th in Stamford at its newly renovated Mill River Park .
This Sakura Matsuri is our Japan Society's first attempt to partner with The Mill River Collaborative, a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide leadership for the creation and maintenance of a successful Mill River Park and Greenway in the City of Stamford . The park is under drastic renovation and it features cherry tree walks where more than one hundred of cherry trees were newly planted and transplanted. It is hoped that the park will become a major Sakura viewing spot on the east coast and the JSFC is excited to be part of its inaugural festival this year.
There will be a food court, Japanese sake-tasting and Manga&Anime display.
Japan Society provides tea ceremonies, kimono dressing, origami and sumie (brush painting) workshops, Dr. Robot demonstration, water yo-yo and more. Those workshops and programs will be held many times throughout the day ( 11am - 3 pm ) .
Roosevelt Island has been famous for cherry blossoms for a long time. In 2011, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) started hosting their First Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. There ware traditional Japanese musical performances, origami classes, tea ceremonies and karate demonstrations by children. RIRA is thinking of hosting a second festival in 2012.
Long Island (Stony Brook University)
The Cherry Blossom Festival will be held at Stony Brook University in Long Island. You can enjoy Japanese traditions such as tea ceremony, Ikebana and traditional Japanese music.
Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia
A program of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadephia, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is an initiative to encourage better understanding of the cultural, social, and educational customs of Japan in the United States. This Festival is a chance to experience a centuries-old tradition that celebrates the fleeting splendor of spring like no other.
In 1926, 1,600 flowering trees were donated by the Japanese government as a gesture of friendship, and from 2007 JASGP has planted more than 1,000 such trees.
Next year's festival will be held from March 23rd to April 21st.
Where to enjoy cherry blossom
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 2,000 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 the Emperor and Empress of Japan) attended an official ceremony, during which a toro, or traditional stone lantern, was donated. The toro was provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and was placed in the northeastern corner of the park. The Crown Prince and Princess again paid a visit to the park during their sojourn through 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 at the time 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."
Central Park, a place of rest and relaxation for New Yorkers, has many cherry trees. Many of them are located around the reservoir, but you can see cherry trees throughout the park. Japan Day @Central Park, which has been held annually since 2007, has seen the planting of even more cherry trees in the park.
New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden has more than 200 cherry trees. "Cherry Valley" near the Rose Garden has become a highlight as well as the Reflecting Pool near the Visitor Center.
Mill River Park
Junzo Nojima made a generous donation to the Stamford community with the planting of 100 Japanese flowering cherry trees in 1957. A project to plant new cherry trees is underway. The best time to visit here is early May.