D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival Gets Under Way This Weekend

Cherry Blossoms

Pretty in pink: Organizers have myriad events planned to coincide with this year’s festival, but if you’re only interested in the trees, you’ll want to visit the Tidal Basin between March 29 and April 1. That’s when forecasters predict the blossoms will be in peak bloom. (enviziondotnet via Flickr)

Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

Yes, the time of year when the color combination of pink-on-white, all things Japanese and the arrival of spring come together like a colorful, woven quilt.

I could only be talking about the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The first having occurred in 1935, this year’s two-week festival is taking place from March 26 to April 10.

The festival’s centerpiece, the cherry trees (a Japanese variety called “sakura”) grow in three locations on National Park Service grounds: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. While the trees are stationary, the festival’s events aren’t; they’ll be taking place citywide and even extending into the suburbs. Many of the events are free, but some are not. Check the link above to find out which ones will cost you.

The annual event’s roots are planted even deeper than 1935, though. They extend all the way back to 1912, when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to the people of Washington, D.C.

The festival, which took a little while to bloom, celebrates this gift from Tokyo that symbolizes the friendship between the United States and Japan. (Curiously, according to the National Park Service, the actual number of trees given to us in 1912 was 3,020. This came after Tokyo’s attempt at gifting the city 2,000 trees in 1910 fell flat; unfortunately, those trees were diseased and had to be burned.)

This year’s festival features many events, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony, the Blossom Secrets Stroll, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show. While there are plenty of events happening all over the area – their site claims there are hundreds of events partnered with the festival – the most fun may be the Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival, which is the largest Japanese cultural festival in the country.

Here, attendees who may not give a hoot about flowers can watch martial arts demonstrations, buy merchandise, sample Japanese food, arts and culture, and hear traditional music and J-Pop performances. The Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival takes place on April 9 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 12th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., and costs five bucks for everyone 13 and older.

Epicureans, take note. For the ninth year, area dining establishments are participating in Cherry Picks, a restaurant program where more than 70 restaurants serve cherry-infused and blossom-inspired dishes to hungry diners.

This year, the festival takes on a more somber note, as the ramifications of the recent earthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated Japan are still being felt. So, the festival invites us to “Stand With Japan” on March 24 – two days before the festival begins – at 6:30 p.m.

In a show of support for the ravaged country, people will congregate at Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument (15th St. and Independence Ave., S.W.) and walk to the Tidal Basin.

The festival site has maps and a whole lot of information, so come on out and enjoy yourself. If you decide that you love it, find an apartment rental with Apartment Showcase and make the move!

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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