DC Cherry Blossom Festival a Gift from Japan

It is spring and the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is in full bloom. The cherry trees in our country’s capital city are planted around the Tidal Basin where the Potomac River meets the shore of the city. The white and pink blossoms are in peak about the first of April depending on the weather.

“The Washington D.C. cherry blossom festival commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington D.C. in 1912. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.“ National Cherry Blossom Festival

Our capital’s Cherry Blossom Festival occurs in the middle of Japan’s cherry Blossom festival, which runs from mid March through early April as the blooms advance from the south to the north part of the country. In Japan, cherry blossoms are a symbol of spring and signify rebirth. The flowers are often found in Japanese art both for their beauty and symbolism. The blossoms appear in painting, ceramics, screens and kimonos.

According to the National Park Service, 12 varieties of cherry trees are now grown around the Tidal Basin. During the peak days for the blooms, the entire Tidal Basin becomes a pink cloud. Crowds line the walkways around the park and cameras capture the color. Just after the peak days, the blossoms fall and create a pink and white snowstorm. The grass and walkways turn into a crimson carpet.

In Japan, the trees are widely planted and viewing parties are popular throughout the country. In the United States as in Japan, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a popular time for families to picnic under the trees and admire the panoramic ocean of color. Sightseers sit on benches and blankets enjoying a pleasant afternoon while taking in the scene. Here is a picture of me next to a 17th century Japanese pagoda a gift of friendship from Mayor Ryozo Hiranuma of Yokohama, Japan, in 1958.

Pagoda National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

April M. Williams with a 17th Century Japanese Pagoda National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

 

The sun was bright during our visit to the opening day of the Cherry Blossom Festival though the air was cold and windy. The crowds were bundled up in winter coats, gloves and mittens. The weather did not deter the sightseers and pedestrian traffic moved at Sunday stroll pace.

Crowds at National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

Crowds fill the walkways at National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

 

The Tidal Basin and West Potomac Park are favorite gathering spots for locals and visitors alike. While you view the cherry blossoms, take time to visit the other sites around the Tidal Basin.

Keep your ears tuned and your eyes peeled towards the skies. During our visit, we watched Marine One, the helicopter that transports the President of the United States, zoom across the Tidal Basin.

Washington Monument through National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

Washington Monument seen through National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

This year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival runs March 26 through April 10 2011. Peak date for the blooms is expected to be April 4.

We were looking forward to the Kite Festival originally scheduled for March 28. The event was postponed due to an early spring snowstorm and cold weather. It has been rescheduled for Sunday April 10.

Urasenke Foundation Japanese Tea Ceremony Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

We experienced an authentic Japanese tea ceremony at the Urasenke Foundation in Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Urasenke Foundation is nestled away on a side street in Waikiki across from the post office. The foundation teaches the art of tea service at locations around the world. We stopped by for a demonstration of the Japanese thin tea ceremony.

We asked and the foundation requested we not shoot video during our visit.

We were greeted at the door and asked to make a small donation to the foundation before entering into the next room. Here we watched a 25 minute video describing a typical thick tea ceremony. The thick tea ceremony lasts several hours and gave us an understanding of the thin tea demonstration we would participate in.

Next we were guided to a tea room and instructed to remove our shoes before entering. This protects the mats covering the floor.

Our host entered with two other Japanese women all wearing colorful kimonos. Our guide described the tea ceremony and instructed us on how to respond. The host did not speak during our visit. The mood was formal and proper.

The room had a cauldron of boiling water set into a hole in the floor. The host began by serving us delicate cookies with a gingko flower design. The elaborate tea preparation began with powdered tea and a small whisk for each single serving. Our guide instructed us on the proper way to show gratitude when accepting the drink. The cup is turned clockwise twice before drinking. Admiration of the design is important.

After each guest was served, the tea spoon and tea container were passed in turn to each guest to admire.

We asked our guide about the history of the foundation. She told us she was a founding member of this branch over 50 years ago. When I asked how long it took to learn the art of Japanese tea ceremony, she said a lifetime, you never stop learning.

My husband is studying to speak Japanese and the women enjoyed conversing with him in their native tongue.

Urasenke Foundation Japanese Tea Ceremony Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

Urasenke Foundation Japanese Tea Ceremony Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

Read more about our visit at 808Talk Insiders Guide to Hawaii.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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