National Cherry Blossom Festival Honors Lasting Friendship:

On April 12, six international students from Armenia, France and South Korea visited Washington, DC to watch the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year, the festival was held from March 20 to April 13.

The festival is an annual event to celebrate the 1912 gift of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees from the mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. Today, there are more than 3,700 cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, and most of them are Yoshino Cherry trees.

More than 1.5 million people come to enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year and the event has grown into an American national celebration of springtime.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Seunghee Cho

For many Koreans cherry blossoms are symbolic for a difficult period during their history, because it is the national flower of Japan. In the early 1900s, South Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, which lasted for 35 years. There are questions about the trees’ place of origin. Some historians insist that South Korea is the place of origin of cherry blossoms. Others speculate that the trees were first native of Japan. Regardless of their origin, Many Koreans have mixed feelings regarding the tree’s symbolism. Unlike the American tradition of recognizing the blossoms as a symbol of friendship with its Japanese neighbors, the blossoms remind some Koreans of unpleasant memories of colonial rule.

Other countries recognize the blossoms, too.

“We have cherry blossom trees in France, but we do not have parades or festivals for cherry blossoms,” said Camille Gippa from France, who is a teacher’s assistant in Wilson’s foreign language department. Anush Petrosyan ‘14, who is from Armenia, agrees that Armenia is the same as France when it comes to cherry blossoms.

Suhhee Song, from South Korea said, “South Korea also has many great cherry blossoms in spring. There are some festivals to admire cherry blossoms in Seoul, which is the capital city of South Korea,”

“Like this festival in Washington, D.C, while the cherry blossom is in bloom Seoul City blocks some streets and decorates them for visitors who enjoy the cherry blossoms. It is a famous annual event in South Korea,” Song said.

She said she was not able to attend the blossom festival while in South Korea, because the trees reach full bloom in the beginning of April. The spring semester begins in early March for Korean students and their midterm week occurs during this time. Song was excited to attend the American celebration and enjoyed the experience.

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