While Pres. Obama is in Europe, thousands of visitors have been flocking to Washington, DC these past few days which is expected to go on until next week. The reason? It's the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a yearly rite of spring for the nation's capital. We went down there today - a sunny but blustery Saturday - to see for ourselves the colors that these blossoms are well known for. As the winds kicked and rattled the trees, an explosion of pink and white gave the cloudless blue sky a colorful contrast.
The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin were given as a gift to the United States from Japan in 1912. Some 3,000 trees from 12 varieties were planted there including other areas of the Potomac river. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, at least four trees were cut down by vandals as a retaliation. Symbolizing somehow a deeper meaning of friendship, the rest of the trees withstood and even more were planted through the years after the war. The first Cherry Blossom Festival began in 1935.
The cherry trees though varies its peak bloom every year, depending on the mood of Mother Nature. We're lucky, today falls right at the peak bloom forecast for 2009 when at least 70 percent of the trees are abloom. As we stepped on the grassy expanse surrounding the Washington Monument, the colors of spring are bursting on the cherry trees nearby. So many people came to witness: whole families, bunch of friends, group of students, and ordinary folks were huddled beneath the trees it's like the madness of Obama's Inauguration Day.
As part of the festivities, the 49th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival took almost all of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's billed as the largest Japanese street festival in the US. All things Japanese were the main item in all the booths lining the street. There were sushi, sake, kimono, origami and of course, Cherry Blossoms t-shirt (in Japanese calligraphy). Onstage, there were drummers and traditional dances. I surely felt today like being transported to Japan even as the strong winds continue to kick in.