Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship
A Special Gift to Washington from the City of Tokyo
Early in the twentieth century, Washington’s renowned sakura blossom trees were presented as a gift of friendship from the city of Tokyo to the nation’s capital. After an initial 1910 shipment of trees had to be destroyed due to infestation, a 1912 gift of 3,000 new trees brought forth the resplendent cherry blossoms that bloom yearly at the Potomac River’s Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, the Washington Monument grounds, the Library of Congress, and other local sites. The story of this gift is documented in correspondence and exquisite watercolor drawings of the original cherry blossom varieties.
Fukurokuju (God of Longevity)
Fukurokuju is the God of Longevity and one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune in Japanese mythology. U.S. First Lady Helen “Nellie” Taft, who loved cherry blossoms, had arranged for 90 Fukurokuju variety trees to be planted near the White House grounds prior to the 1912 gift.
Shirayuki (White Snow)
Gyoi-Kō (Robe Yellow)
Ichi-yō (Single Leaf)
Fugenzō or Fukenzō (Fugen’s Elephant)
The title is a reference to Fugen Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva (an enlightened being) Samantabhadra, who is often depicted on a white elephant.
Mikuruma-gaeshi (Cart Turning Back)
Mikuruma refers to a vehicle used to transport important dignitaries and courtiers. The meaning of this sakura variety’s name can be interpreted in different ways, perhaps suggesting the passenger was compelled to return to view the beautiful sakura.
Though Yoshino in Nara Prefecture is famous for its cherry blossoms, this popular sakura variety is named for Somei, a place in Edo, now Tokyo. Somei-yoshino was one of only three varieties of cherry blossom trees to survive after frequent floods around the Tidal Basin in the 1930s.
Kwan-zan (Barrier Mountain)
This variety of “sato sakura” (village cherry) is sometimes also referred to as Kanzan or Sekiyama. Kwan-zan was one of only three varieties of cherry blossom trees to survive after frequent floods around the Tidal Basin in the 1930s.
Taki-nioi (Cascade Fragrance)
Taki-nioi was one of only three varieties of cherry blossom trees to survive after frequent floods around the Tidal Basin in the 1930s.