Celebrating the 110th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Gift and U.S.-Japan Friendship

The following is a guest post by Mari Nakahara, Curator of Architecture, Design, and Engineering, and Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division.

The year 2022 marks the 110th anniversary of the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in 1912, an enduring symbol of the U.S.-Japan friendship. Springtime viewing of the blooming cherry blossom trees has become a cherished tradition and a signature cultural event in the United States capital.

As featured in the book, “Cherry Blossoms: Sakura Collections from the Library of Congress,” the Library’s extensive, multidisciplinary collections allow a unique exploration of the history, significance, and legacy of the cherry trees. Join the book’s co-authors for a series of three evening virtual presentations on Wednesday through Friday, April 6-8, 7 to 8 p.m. (EDT) to see the Library’s rich and growing collections. (See details at the bottom of the post.)

April 6: Exploring Cherry Blossom Varieties with Mari Nakahara

Appreciation and popularity of cherry blossoms have been growing. There are increasingly opportunities to enjoy cherry trees at multiple locations, even on neighbors’ sidewalks each spring. That said, how much is commonly known about cherry blossoms? What can we notice by looking closely? How many cherry blossom varieties can we find in our neighborhoods? How do we describe their colors? Let’s explore exquisite watercolors by Kōkichi Tsunoi that accurately illustrate the eleven varieties of the gift trees, with a goal of increasing our visual recognition of cherry blossom types. (Registration information at the bottom of the post.)

Somei-yoshino [i.e., Somei Yoshino]. Watercolor by Kokichi Tsunoi, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57368

Somei-yoshino [i.e., Somei Yoshino]. Watercolor by Kōkichi Tsunoi, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57368

Kwan-san [i.e., Kwanzan]. Watercolor by Kōkichi Tsunoi, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57374

April 7: One Man’s Life Dedicated to Peace with Mari Nakahara

If the 1912 gift of cherry blossom trees is viewed as a living symbol of the U.S.–Japan friendship, then Hirosi Saito, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. during the crucial pre-war years from 1934 to 1938, is remembered for his commitment to peace. He was also a living witness to the 1912 gift, when his diplomatic career in Washington was just beginning. President Roosevelt expressed special gratitude for Saito’s contributions, arranging for the U.S. Navy cruiser Astoria to return Saito’s ashes to Japan after his death in 1939 at the age of 52. (Registration information at the bottom of the post.)

Cherry blossoms, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1936. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.72015

Cherry blossoms, Washington, D.C. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1936. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.72015

Newsmen quiz Japanese Ambassador at press club luncheon. Washington, D.C., Oct. 14. In an off-the-record appearance… Japanese Ambassador Hirosi Saito virtually underwent a cross-examination… Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1937. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.23474

Newsmen quiz Japanese Ambassador at press club luncheon. Washington, D.C., Oct. 14. In an off-the-record appearance… Japanese Ambassador Hirosi Saito virtually underwent a cross-examination… Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1937. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.23474

April 8: Seasonal Appreciations in Japanese Visual Art with Katherine Blood

In Japanese art and culture, the four seasons are celebrated through the thoughtful appreciation of such natural phenomena as springtime cherry blossoms, summer fireflies, bright autumn foliage, winter snow, and more. From an 18th century cherry blossom hanami party to a contemporary artist’s illustration of Tanabata star festival wishes, examples range from jewel-toned Edo period (1603-1868) woodblock prints to contemporary artist prints, posters, and drawings, by both Japanese and American creators. (Registration information at the bottom of the post.)

<em>Yayoi or Sangatsu, Asukayama Hanami. </em>Woodblock print by Kitao Shigemasa, between 1772 and 1776. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.02258

Yayoi or Sangatsu, Asukayama Hanami. Woodblock print by Kitao Shigemasa, between 1772 and 1776. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.02258

Drawing shows a woman passing a shuttle through the warp of a loom as three birds fly in the background and a figure looks on from the right.

Tanabata, Acrylic drawing with collage by Michelle Kumata, 2018. Used by permission. //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2021630048/

Registration information:

April 6: Exploring Cherry Blossom Varieties
https://loc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_p0ugChUXRFaGbeBR9Mz9zA

April 7: One Man’s Life Dedicated to Peace
https://loc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_lCNtgqDvTbq2-BVwaFfnrg

April 8: Seasonal Appreciations in Japanese Visual Art
https://loc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_uEpnDlPmQOei6bCXGDlz1Q

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