The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Cherry blossoms signify beauty, fragility and spring in Japanese tradition. Seattle Center’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates these traditions by showcasing elements of Japanese culture and cuisine.
Photo credit: HALEY STOKES/The Falcon.
Cherry Blossom Festival coming to Seattle this weekend
By RYAN DALEY,
Published: April 11 2012
One would be hard-pressed to find a country more nationally obsessed with flowers, and specifically cherry blossoms, than Japan.
But this weekend, Seattle too will celebrate the delicate flower at Seattle Center.
In traditional Japanese culture, sakura, or cherry blossom trees, are symbols of national identity, as well as physical manifestations of the Japanese-Buddhist concept of mono no awaré or “the sadness of things.”
They represent a mindfulness of the impermanence and transience of earthly beauty, as described by the 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga in his literary annotations of the classic epoch The Tale of Genji.
Japan has a long-standing tradition of giving the culturally iconic trees as gifts to people and countries in commemoration of friendship or as gifts of thanks.
Thirty-six years ago, in 1976, Takeo Miki (then Prime Minister of Japan) donated 1,000 such sakura trees to the City of Seattle as part of the United States Bicentennial celebrations.
Seattle has always had quite an amicable relationship with Japan, especially with its Japanese sister city of Kobe. (Over the years, the cities have exchanged gifts, all of which are recorded on the website of the City of Kobe.)
But Miki had a particularly emotional connection to the Emerald City.
According to The Seattle Times, in a humbler time of his life, Miki worked as a dishwasher at Maneki, a historical sushi shop in Seattle’s Chinatown district that has been open for over a hundred years.
Perhaps due in part to this shared history, every year since, Seattle has been honoring Miki’s gift by hosting the Cherry Blossom Festival, or Sakura Matsuri, as it is affectionately known by Japanese speakers.
The festival is a sort of cultural exhibition and is held each April at Seattle Center, where many of the sakura of ’76 were planted.
According to Seattle Center’s fliers that have been circulating the city as of late, in past years, it featured Japanese dancers, taiko drum players, tea ceremony demonstrations, flea markets and more in celebration of Japanese culture and the close relationship our two countries share.
2012 in particular will be special for attendees of the Sakura Matsuri. This year marks the 100-year anniversary of a donation of 3,020 cherry blossom trees from the City of Tokyo to Washington, D.C.
This year, the Japan Commerce Association of Washington put together an initiative they call the Cherry Blossom Centennial Commemoration Project, which, among other things, seeks to promote Japanese Language study in America, support cultural exchange programs and gift as many cherry trees to American cities as possible, according to a recent press release.
Seattle is one city set to receive trees from this program. The trees will be ceremonially planted at this year’s Sakura Matsuri. This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival will be all weekend, from Friday to Sunday, at Seattle Center.
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