One Hundred Years of Cherry Blossoms


This year, 2012, marks the 100-year anniversary of the gift of cherry trees from Tokyo, Japan to the city of Washington, DC, and so the annual flowering and pilgrimage to the Tidal Basin has been accompanied this season not only by the usual parade and street festivals, but also by a vast range of concerts, lectures, films, theatrical performances, cruises, workshops, and a dizzying selection of art, craft, textile, photography, and history exhibits. If you haven’t been checking them out, it’s not too late; some continue well beyond cherry blossom season.

Throughout changing administrations, evolving political systems, and wars, including one in which the United States and Japan bombed and killed each other’s citizens, the cherry trees have stood silently along the water’s edge, reliably budding and blooming each spring, and sprinkling with poignant pink-and-white petals their millions of admiring visitors. Now grown (we hope) to a more mature phase in our relationship, we two peoples take up our passports and visit one another amicably, sometimes transplanting ourselves and intermarrying.

Distantly related to rough-housing among children encountering one another in a sandbox, warfare has, throughout human history, served as a bizarre prelude to mutual recognition, acceptance, and eventual intimacy. At the height of WWII, there probably weren’t many people who, seeing their society’s young men dying horribly, envisioned enemy citizens as potential in-laws or their towns as future tourist destinations. But, given the pattern, perhaps we Americans can optimistically anticipate our grandchildren doing their study abroad, and perhaps finding their spouses, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And, hoping you haven’t had enough cherry blossoms already, I post this completed painting, of which I showed the early stage in March. (Undoubtedly some will prefer that earlier stage!) Happy Sakura Season, everyone.

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