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Slideshow: Cherry Blossoms in Portland

Cherry Blossoms 2012

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This spring, you may have had the opportunity to see cherry trees blooming throughout Portland, particularly during the past few weeks.

And last weekend, though the weather was at times stormy with some sun breaks, people gathered at the Japanese American Historical Plaza located in the north part of Portland’s Waterfront Park for the 2nd Annual Sakura Sunday.

Hosted by the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO), the Sakura Sunday event honored the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing with performances from Portland Taiko, students from the International School and others. In addition, Reverend Zuigaku Kodachi offered a prayer while people threw flowers into the Willamette River to pray for the victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

Reverend Kodachi offering a prayer at Sakura Sunday

Kayo Lackey / OPB

“Sakura [cherry] is one of the most beloved flowers in Japan,” explained Takamichi Okabe, Consul-General of Japan, during the event. “Sakura is a symbol of Japanese sensitivity of natural beauty, and it is also a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and Japan.”

As part of Japanese tradition, when sakura blooms, family and friends get together to picnic under the cherry trees and enjoy viewing the beautiful blossoms. Since the weather did not quite cooperate at this year’s Portland event, no one picnicked under the trees. However, kids did run, play and get their pictures taken.

The cherry trees that grow in the Japanese American Historical Plaza originally came from Japan. “They were donated by the Japanese Grain Importers Association back in 1989,” said Yoshio Kurosaki, a JASO board member. “There are many Japanese businesses and exporters from Japan residing in Portland.”

“They created goodwill by donating those beautiful cherry trees,” added Kurosaki. The trees were planted in the plaza in 1990 when it was dedicated to commemorate people of Japanese ancestry who were sent to the internment camps during World War II.

This year also marks the centennial of a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. There are many events taking place around the nation to celebrate the centennial, including a commemorative cherry tree planting on Thursday, April 12  at 10 am at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Go See It!

Commemorative Cherry Tree Planting