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Cherry Blossom Festival Marks Centennial Event

The Washington Monument appears in the distance behind the array of gorgeous trees during the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Washington Monument appears in the distance behind the array of gorgeous trees during the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

The centennial celebration of Washington’s cherry trees is in full bloom this week with Cherry Blossom Festival events well underway.

This year’s cherry blossoms provided a spectacular display. Aarti Kabade is enjoying her first Cherry Blossom Festival with friends. “We're really enjoying it. We are loving it. And these are beautiful colors to see," she said.

This year's festival marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of the first trees by the mayor of Tokyo, as a token of friendship between Japan and the United States. A few more than 100 of the original 3,000 trees survive. The rest have been replaced by the Japanese government or grown from the original trees’ genetic line.

Anne Ullberg came to the U.S. from France six years ago. She says she is happy to see more Japanese tourists in Washington, one year after an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan's coast. “So I think this year is going to be more beautiful than ever, because some of them are able to come back now," she said.

The festival includes a wide range of events, many celebrating the culture of Japan.

Here at the National Building Museum in Washington, the Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe is performing. The multicultural children’s group, based in Maryland, promotes dance as an international language. It was started by dancer Shizumi Shigeto Manale, who combines Japanese movements with different types of American dance. "Being in America, I want to be Americanized, and then I developed this fusion American-Japanese side," he said.

Other activities at the Building Museum include the opportunity to try on traditional Japanese clothing that came from the National Children’s Museum in Washington. Spokesperson Lisa Marie Ryder says the museum hopes children will get interested in Japanese culture. “One way to do that is to feel and touch those traditional items, we hope will get them excited to learn about Japan and the world around them," she said.

The Cherry Blossom Festival also provides activities for children to learn crafts that reflect Japanese culture. Filipina Judytte Purdy is helping her daughter create a clothespin doll. "And this is actually my first time to make something like this," she said.

Katelyn Hinkel is also having fun with a different project. "While you’re gluing the popcorn on, it makes it look like a cherry blossom tree with real popcorn on it," she said.

The festival continues through April, emphasizing the enduring relationship between the United States and Japan.