It has been a rough week in Washington so when I saw today is the 108th anniversary of the start of Cherry Blossom diplomacy, it seemed like a great subject for a FriYay post. Who doesn’t like cherry blossoms? Cherry Blossom diplomacy was the phrase attributed to the gift exchange between Tokyo and Washington, D.C. that began in 1909. Here are some fast facts:
1. 1885 - Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, the first woman board member of the National Geographic Society starts campaign to plant cherry trees in our nation’s capital.
2. April 1909 - Scidmore approaches First Lady Helen Herron Taft; whose husband Howard Taft was the newly elected 27th POTUS. Taft responds immediately and suggests the trees be planted along the Potomac. By April 13, 1909, 90 cherry trees were planted along the Potomac.
4. April 1909 - Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese chemist, and Mr. Midzuno, the Japanese consul to NYC, ask if Mrs. Taft would accept a gift of 2,000 cherry trees from Tokyo.
5. August 1909 - the gift of 2,000 cherry trees from Tokyo was made official by an announcement from the Japanese Embassy.
6. January 1910 – 2,000 diseased trees arrive and are destroyed per order of President Taft. Japan offers to send 3,000 more trees.
7. March 1912 - 3,020 healthy trees arrive in Washington and a tree planting ceremony was held with First Lady Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planting the first two trees on the Tidal Basin, which are still standing today.
8. 1915 – the United States gifts dogwood trees to Japan in reciprocation.
9. 1934 – First Cherry Blossom Festival was held.
10. 1941 – four cherry trees were cut down in suspected retaliation for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
11. 1947 – The Cherry Blossom Festival, which was shut down during World War II, resumed.
12. 1965 – First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees in a reenactment of the 1912 ceremony with Ryuji Takeuchi, the wife of the Japanese ambassador.
13. 1981 – 1982 - Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the trees to replace cherry trees in Japan destroyed in a flood.
14. Present – the Cherry Blossom Festival has expanded to a four-weekend festival in the spring.