In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, DC as a symbol of the friendship between the two nations. Ms. Eliza Scidmore, the author of a travel journal who was deeply impressed by the beauty of the cherry blossoms at Mukoujima in Tokyo, had campaigned for years to have them brought to DC. Along with Dr. Joukichi Takamine, famous for his work on adrenaline and the enzyme taka-diastase and a long-time friend of America, she urged First Lady Helen Taft to have the trees planted along the Potomac. Now every year the public parks along the banks of the Potomac River in Washington are covered in gorgeous blooming trees, delighting the public who come to see them.
The first festival commemorating the gift from Japan and the friendship it represented was held in 1927. Now it has grown into the largest such celebration in America, welcoming more than 1.5 million visitors each year. The Opening Ceremony in particular, with its captivating performances from artists representing both Japan and the US, enjoys a high degree of popularity both locally and abroad in Japan. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and the Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival also draw packed crowds.