The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., continues to offer a wealth of springtime activities for District residents, students and visitors after nearly 90 years. Howard students have taken full advantage of this year’s festivities.
Tokyo Mayor, Yukio Ozaki, gifted 3,000 trees to the city of Washington, D.C., in 1912 to celebrate the lasting friendship between the people of America and Japan, according to the National Park Service. The Cherry Blossom Festival tradition began in 1935 and honors the natural beauty and the symbol of friendship the trees represent.
Today, Howard students use the litany of events, happening until April 16, as ways of bonding with their friends and family. Deja Woodson, a sophomore health science major, is attending a few of the events this season with her mom.
“I am most excited about spending time with my family when they come to visit as I show them around the decorated city. If I have the opportunity, I would absolutely ride the metro bus throughout the city,” Woodson said.
“As a 19-year-old college student from California, moving was a big decision and the start of a new chapter. Being that cherry blossoms symbolize new beginnings and renewal they reflect my journey in a new city,” she continued.
Danayeat Abraha, a senior biology major, explored the cherry blossom trees at Tidal Basin with her sister during this year’s festival.
“I had a great time seeing the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin! It was my first time seeing them and they were extremely beautiful. I was lucky enough to stumble upon Boating in D.C.-Tidal Basin ten minutes before their last time slot and was able to go paddle boating which really made my experience,” Abraha said.
Not all Howard students, however, will be attending the Cherry Blossom Festival. Angel Bryant, junior international affairs major and Japanese minor, recently wrote a letter to editor in The Hilltop, outlining how she has abstained from attending any of the festival’s events for their refusal to publish a statement against Asian hate.
In lieu of attending the festival, students have access to hang out near any of the five cherry blossom trees throughout Howard’s campus that were planted by the National Cherry Blossom Festival and All Nippon Airways and gifted by the Neighborhood Tree Planting Program in 2018. For those who do wish to attend, this year’s festival activities were defined by partnerships with Amazon, Lego and a kite master visiting from Japan, according to Meg Cohen, the festival’s marketing and communications director. For Cohen, the festival has become a staple of D.C. culture for D.C. residents.
“I do think the festival is really an iconic part of what makes D.C. what it is. Anytime people think about D.C., those cherry blossoms are front and center. It’s just kind of this beautiful, very fleeting time that everyone can come together,” Cohen said.
“It is very much about engaging the community in the festival. Many people think ‘oh it’s for tourists’ but, we say the festival can start at your doorstep,” she continued.
This weekend is filled with activities for students to enjoy. On April 14, people can choose to attend either the Tamagawa University Dance and Taiko Group performance at the Kennedy Center, the second day of high school students competing in the 31st annual Japan Bowl, a Japanese-language competition, at the College Park Marriott Hotel, the Cherry Blossom Jubilee at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center at 7 p.m. and the crowning of the new festival queen at the Capital Hilton Hotel.
When reflecting on her experience viewing the cherry blossom trees Abraha said, “They made me feel extremely happy and rejuvenated. I’m someone who loves being around nature so it was a really joyous experience for me.”
The festival ends with the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival on April 15-16 and the official Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 15. With tickets ranging between $25 to $40, the parade will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature a performance from C+C Music Factory and Abbott Elementary’s and D.C.-area native, Lisa Ann Walters, as a marshall. The festival will be from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and end at 4 p.m. on Sunday, and tickets range from $10 to $15.
To participate in these events or explore the trees, catch the custom-designed Metro trains or buses or learn more information about the festival and upcoming events, visit https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee