Sakura: Celebrating the gift of cherry trees at the University of Washington

A gift to the University of Washington (UW) from the people of Japan, 18 flowering cherry trees, will be dedicated in a ceremony on Tuesday, May 20, at 11 a.m., just south of the Drumheller Fountain on the lawn of Rainier Vista. UW President Michael K. Young, Japanese Consul General Masahiro Omura, and the Honorable Norman Mineta will be speaking in the dedication, emceed by Dr. Jeffrey Riedinger, the UW Vice Provost of Global Affairs.

In Japan, cherry blossoms, or sakura, symbolize both the beauty and transience of life. At the University of Washington, flowering cherry trees have become a lasting symbol of the university and history of relations between the UW and Japan.

The history of cherry trees at the UW campus reaches back to 1909 and the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, where Japan was one of only two countries (the other was Canada) to erect entire buildings. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo donated 3,000 flowering cherry trees of the Yoshino variety to Washington, D.C. Two decades later, the UW bought 34 Yoshino cherry trees that were planted in the Washington Park Arboretum. Thirty-one of these trees were moved from the arboretum to the central campus of the UW in the 1960.

The gift of cherry trees also symbolizes the 120-year history of Japanese and Japanese American students at the university, including eras of discrimination and exclusion.

The public is invited to the dedication ceremony. In addition to the 18 trees planted on Rainier Vista in the central UW campus, 14 additional donated trees are being dedicated and planted on Azalea Way and in the courtyard of the Japanese Garden of the Arboretum. The gift comes to the UW Department of American Ethnic Studies and the university through the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, D.C. (end)

For information, call the UW Department of American Ethnic Studies at 206-543-5401.

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