Ueno Sakura Matsuri: The Cherry Blossom Lantern Festival of Japan


Every year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival memorializes the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington DC in 1912. The annual celebration honors the lasting friendship between the United States of America with Japan and the commitment of continuing the prolonged close relationship between the two countries. On March 27, 1912, in a plain ceremony, the First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador, on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, planted the first two trees from Japan. As the years passed, gifts have been exchanged between the two nations. To answer the gift from 1912, in 1915, the US Government presented a return gift by giving flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. During 1981, the series of presenting came to full pace. Japanese horticulturists were given tree cuttings to change some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed by flood or any other natural calamity. Ever since the involvement of First Lady Taft, the nation’s first ladies have been the torch holders of the Cherry Blossom Festival. All first ladies in recent years have chaired the festival, many participated as well. Planting a cherry tree in West Potomac Park among dignitaries and guests, the First Lady Michelle Obama was participated in 2012.


In the present scenario, the Cherry Blossom Celebration has crossed various miles from meek small gatherings to the nation’s greatest spring time festivity. 2012, being the 100th year anniversary of the gift, was marked with a five week long celebrations. Involvement of school children and civic groups enhanced the merriment of festival to a huge extent. Tuned in line with the peak blooming period of the trees (which is sometimes highly inaccurate due to weather conditions), this city-wide occasion attracts visitors and area residents to a variety of events in collaboration with more than 30 local organizations. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated for four weekends and greets over 1.5 million people from the world to enjoy diverse events (some of which are paid) and the trees. Millions have participated in the annual event over the years that portents spring in the nation’s capital. Since 1912, the count of trees has expanded to roughly 3,750 trees of 16 varieties on National Park Service land.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is organized by the National Cherry Blossom Festival Inc., a wholly not-for-profit organization enacted under 501(c)(3), keen to promote the splendor of both nature and international amity through various programs, events etc. It also symbolizes the proper showcase of arts and culture and builds humane spirit. The care of the Japanese flowering cherries for most part has been handed over to the members of the Tree Crew for National Capital Parks-Central who are professional arboriculturists who possess scientific skills through experience and appropriate training to take proper care of trees.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival showcases a bunch of artistic and assorted activities that endorse both conventional and contemporary art forms along with natural scenic beauty and the atmosphere. The majority of events are free and open to the public. Signature Festival events include:

  • Opening Ceremony
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
  • The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival

There are almost 150 cultural performances by local, national and international performers, sports competitions held daily. The list of this festivity has no full stop. You have to be a little flexible planning your tour to this festival as the peak bloom is depends upon weather conditions. For further enquiries about The Cherry Blossom Festival 2016, which is going to held between Late March to mid April, you may take assistance from the following contact details:

Contact Details: call (202) 619-7222 or send an e-mail to the National Capital Region Public Affairs Office.