A CELEBRATION OF JAPANESE CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES
Symbolizing the friendship between Japan and the U.S., Japan gave 2,000 sakura trees to New York City, thirteen of which were planted in Claremont Park, now Sakura Park. At the centennial ceremony in Sakura Park, then Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki presented six sakura saplings, genetic descendants of the original gift. He stated, “Our affection for the U.S. is as deep-rooted as the roots of these trees in American soil – a living testament of the friendship our two countries share.” Then Commissioner of Parks Adrian Benepe stated, “In the cherry blossom’s shade, there’s no such thing as a stranger.”
JAA’s “21st Century New York Cherry Blossom Project” began on Arbor Day, April 24th, 1992, at City Hall Park. Sakura seeds donated by The Cherry Association of Japan were presented by then JAA President Shigeru Inagaki to Betsy Gotbaum, Commissioner of New York Parks. On April 3rd, 2001, 168 cherry trees nursed by Bobby Zapala in the greenhouses of Van Cortlandt Park were planted at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Many JAA volunteers planted the trees in a design created by the noted landscape artist Kan Domoto with George Yuzawa. JAA donated 40 trees to augment other varieties and colors. The first Sakura Matsuri was celebrated on April 12th, 2003, beginning an annual event working in close cooperation with the Flushing Meadows Corona Park staff.