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A Generous Gift

Washington, D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms were originally a gift from Japan. Recently, the Japanese prime minister made another kind gesture.

Cherry blossoms frame a view of the Jefferson Memorial.

© SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com

Washington, D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms frame the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Washington, D.C., is famous for the cherry trees whose pink and red blossoms draw more than one million visitors each year. The trees are more than just beautiful. They’re a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Japan. Recently, Japan’s prime minister reinforced that alliance by offering a generous gift.

On April 10, during an official visit to the U.S., Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan would give its ally 250 cherry trees. The Japanese government decided on the gift after learning that hundreds of Washington’s cherry trees will be removed this summer in order to rebuild a crumbling seawall around the Tidal Basin, a reservoir along which many of the trees are planted. When the city’s Potomac River floods, the water in the reservoir floods as well, damaging nearby trees.

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands in front of the White House and are flanked by the U.S. and Japanese flags.

© Chen Mengtong—China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

U.S. president Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida during the prime minister’s 2024 visit to the United States.

U.S. president Joe Biden said the gift is also meant to honor America’s 250th birthday in 2026.

“Like our friendship, these trees are timeless, inspiring and thriving,” said President Biden. The president, along with U.S. first lady Jill Biden, had accompanied the prime minister and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on a visit to some of the city’s blooming trees the previous evening.

A group of men, women, and one child in 1920s clothing stand under cherry blossoms with the Washington Monument in the background.

Harris & Ewing Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-hec-31617)

 In this 1922 photo, a group of people stand under some of Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms.

Washington might not have its famous cherry trees if it weren’t for Japan, where the cherry blossom, or sakura, is the unofficial national flower. In 1912, U.S. first lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Iwa Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States, planted two of 3,020 cherry trees that Japan had given to the U.S. in a gesture of friendship.

Washington celebrates that gesture during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which is meant to take place each spring when the trees are at full bloom.

Did You Know?

Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are an important part of Japanese culture and a favorite subject for the nation’s artists. Located throughout Japan, the trees bloom at different times in the spring, from the southern to the northern regions of the country. Since the blooms last for only about one week, the Japanese believe they symbolize the beauty and briefness of life.

All the art and objects featured in the slideshow below feature cherry blossoms.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939 (JP2923), www.metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Gift, 1980 (1980.222), www.metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1669), www.metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. V. Everit Macy, 1923 (23.225.300), www.metmuseum.org,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry Collection, Bequest of Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry, 2000 (2002.447.109), www.metmuseum.org

Trees To Look Up To

April 26 is Arbor Day, a holiday that’s dedicated to the planting of trees. Trees are incredibly important. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, shelter countless living things, help slow floods, and more.

To mark Arbor Day, let’s take a look at a few trees that tower above the rest…in more ways than one.

View from below looking up at the very tall Hyperion.
© Stephen/stock.adobe.com
TALLEST

A giant redwood called Hyperion is the tallest tree in the world—and it’s still growing. Located in Redwood National Park in California, Hyperion is over 380 feet (116 meters) tall and estimated to be 600 to 800 years old.

A tree with an extremely thick trunk.
© Javarman/Dreamstime.com
WIDEST
El Árbol del Tule is the widest tree in the world. Located in Oaxaca, Mexico, this Montezuma cypress has a diameter of about 45 feet (13 meters) and is still growing.
A person stands in front of an extremely large tree.
© Anderm/Dreamstime.com
BIGGEST
General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree in California’s Sequoia National Park, is the world’s largest tree by volume, at 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters). General Sherman’s trunk has a diameter of 36.5 feet (11.1 meters).
A tree with a twisted trunk and no leaves on a desert landscape
© Tayfun Coskun—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
OLDEST
A Great Basin bristlecone pine called Methuselah, located in the White Mountains of California, was long thought to be the oldest tree in the world, at around 4,800 years. It held the title until 2012, when a nearby bristlecone pine was estimated at more than 5,000 years old. There’s a good chance that older trees exist—they just haven’t been dated yet.

Celebrate Haiku!

A haiku about a cicada is printed on an image of a cicada on a branch.
Image: ©Wayan Sumatika/Dreamstime.com, Haiku: Matsuo Bashō, translation by William George Aston; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

April brings Arbor Day, Earth Month, National Poetry Month, and cherry blossoms. So it’s only fitting to celebrate a form of poetry that originated in Japan: the haiku. In a haiku, the first line is five syllables, the second is seven, and the third is five.

The haiku above was composed by famed 17th century poet Matsuo Bashō. (This English translation of the original Japanese doesn’t quite fit the 5-7-5 structure.)

You can read more about the haiku at Britannica.

WORD OF THE DAY

diplomacy

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries

Definitions provided by
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