Exactly 100 years ago, the people of Japan presented the United States with over 3,000 cherry trees as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. Today, those cherry trees bloom with glorious blossoms every spring along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
As part of the commemoration of that gesture 100 years ago, the Japanese Ambassador and the Consul General of Japan presented four cherry trees to the City of Colorado Springs. The presentation was also in celebration this year of the 50th Anniversary of Sister City relationship between Colorado Springs, which sits at the foot of America’s mountain, Pikes Peak, and Fujiyoshida, which is located at the foot of Mount Fuji, the symbol of Japan.
A cherry tree planting ceremony was held on the afternoon of April 18th at Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs with hundreds enjoying the brief but joyous event. The ceremony began with singing by the local Conservatory followed by brief remarks by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Consul General of Japan Ikuhiko Ono, both expressing gratitude for the warm relationship that exists between Japan and America, and particularly between Fujiyoshida and Colorado Springs. Consul General Ono expressed his nation’s gratitude for the generous assistance extended by the U.S. following last year’s tragedies of earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan.
U.S. Postal Service Representative Ron Perry then took the stage to inform everyone that a postage stamp had been issued by USPS as a Cherry Blossom Centennial stamp. These “Forever” stamps are now available in post offices nationwide. Perry presented special plaques prepared for the occasion to Mayor Bach, Consul General Ono, and to several other representative groups.
Perhaps the most moving part of the ceremony was the choral presentation by Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale that has, in the past, made several visits to Fujiyoshida. The children began with a beautiful singing of “America the Beautiful”. Then, a Children’s Chorale member played a solo rendition of “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) that was followed by the entire chorale singing “Sakura” in Japanese.
Upon conclusion of the ceremony in Acacia Park, Mayor Bach and Consul General Ono and several ladies in kimonos walked across the street to the median on Nevada Avenue to plant the cherry tree. The tree was planted in front of the Torii, a sacred gateway to a Shinto shrine, that stands at the Nevada Avenue median as a symbol of Fujiyoshida-Colorado Springs Sister City relationship.
While only one tree was planted at the Nevada Avenue median due to space, three other cherry trees were planted at nearby America the Beautiful Park where a major festival will take place in August to celebrate the 50th Sister City Anniversary.
Many citizens of Fujiyoshida, including their taiko group and a junior high school contingent, are expected to come to Colorado Springs this summer to join local citizens to assist in replicating Fujiyoshida’s famous “Fire Festival” (considered one of three greatest festivals in Japan) on August 4th.